COVID-19

Taiwan is “disturbingly normal,” but not immune to pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Sean McHenry May 8, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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People divided by plastic partitions, amid concerns of COVID-19, eat their food at Q Square in Xindian district, New Taipei City. Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Taiwan is “disturbingly normal,” but not immune to pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Sean McHenry May 8, 2020
People divided by plastic partitions, amid concerns of COVID-19, eat their food at Q Square in Xindian district, New Taipei City. Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

In Taiwan, many restaurants and stores are still open for business.

“I describe it as disturbingly normal,” said Arvin Chen, an American-born filmmaker who now lives in Taiwan. “Besides people wearing face masks and occasional temperature checks when you walk into certain restaurants, it’s pretty much life as normal. Which is, again, disturbing, but I guess slightly comforting.”

According to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker, Taiwan has one of the lowest coronavirus-related death counts in world and appears to have effectively limited the spread of the disease. Aggressive contact tracking and closed borders may be part of the reason.

But that doesn’t mean the economy is completely up and running. Chen, a filmmaker, hasn’t been able to shoot since the start of the crisis.

“I was supposed to shoot a movie here in April, and that’s not happening anytime soon,” Chen said in an interview with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal.

“We do shoot in like actual locations, meaning we need to rent out restaurants and hotels and hospitals,” Chen said. “I think people are still very wary of 50 to 100 crew members coming into locations.”

Travel and filming may be frozen, but Chen isn’t out of work.

“I also do some work in LA as a writer,” he said. “In a weird way, it hasn’t stopped. And it’s probably even picked up a little bit more because all you can do right now is development, right?”

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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