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Taiwan Tech in Times of COVID-19
If you wish to enter Taiwan Tech campus these days, you will only find two gates open. Your body temperatures will be taken, and you will see that most people on campus are wearing face masks. In elevators and cafeterias, "Let's not talk" signs are posted, and dispensers with hand sanitizers are deployed at the entrances of all buildings.
 
  
 
Taiwan Tech is impacted by the outbreak as the disease as other universities worldwide, but classes are held on campus, and there is the usual vibrant mixture of local and international students.
 
Taiwan is just a short flight away from mainland China, where COVID-19 is believed to have originated in the city of Wuhan. As the outbreak took hold in January, Taiwan's Centre of Disease Control reacted quickly and started to roll out a series of epidemic control measures. 
 
And so did Taiwan Tech. Although most of Taiwan Tech faculty and staff was still on Lunar New Year vacation, a university-wide Epidemic Prevention Response Team was set up to coordinate measures. The decision to delay the beginning of the semester by two weeks until 2 March, followed the guidelines set up by the Ministry of Educations for all schools and universities in Taiwan.
 
"Taiwan's experience with SARS in 2003 has certainly helped to deal with the situation", said Taiwan Tech Vice president Rong-Huay Juang, who is a trained biochemist, "and what is more, several public health experts are currently serving in high government positions, including our vice-president. I am quite confident that Taiwan and Taiwan Tech will go through this crisis smoothly". As a matter of fact, measures adopted by the Taiwan government turned out to be effective, as Taiwan has had only 47 cases of COVID-19 by mid-March.  
 
Of course, it is not just business as usual on the Taiwan Tech campus, with almost all cultural, sports, and social events cancelled – including the celebration for Taiwan Tech's 45th anniversary. With quarantine regulations in force, international students from a number of countries were required to quarantine themselves for two weeks before the start of the term. 
 
Another challenge is to safeguard the right to education of Taiwan Tech students who are currently stuck in China with no option to leave the country any time soon. Taiwan Tech has been setting up training sessions and workshops for online teaching tools, so that classes can still be followed through distance learning. 
 
With visits by international delegations, academic conferences, and other important events, like the annual APAIE conference, cancelled or postponed, the Office of International Affairs now focuses on providing information on epidemic prevention measures for international students and staff.
 
"Overall, the impact has not been dramatic," says Dean Wang, International Office, "As for international degree students, we have only seen a decline of 6%, and with our incoming exchange programs we' ve just had 15 cancellations. Most affected are our outgoing exchange students who are planning to go to European or Asian countries. Some cancelled their plans already, but most of them are caught in a limbo. They would still  love to go, so most of them have adopted a wait-and-see attitude.”
 
OIA staff also offers support to students who are confronted with university closures in European countries, Korea and Japan. The current situation does not only thwart their study plans, but has also organizational implications such as deferring scholarships or rebooking plane tickets.
 
The current situation has also added to the work load of Taiwan Tech academic staff, as they are doing their best to offer distance learning materials in addition to their on-campus courses. Wannie Wang, Professor at the College of Liberal Arts of Social Sciences, still tries to stay positive: "Now, I am often chatting with the security staff who are doing the temperature measurements. Before, I would just rush through the gates without thinking too much of their work. So, in all that gloom, there are still some good things happening.”
  
 
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