Taiwan embraces cute mascots for virus prevention campaign
This photo illustration taken on February 14, 2020 shows a man pointing to a webpage from Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Facebook account, used to promote the prevention of the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus, in Taipei. While China deploys stern communist slogans in its battle against a deadly new coronavirus, democratic Taiwan has embraced cuddly mascots and humour to ease public anxiety and educate on best practices. Images of cute animals have featured in daily social media updates from government agencies to tackle disinformation and prevent infections spreading.
AFP/Sam Yeh
Taiwan embraces cute mascots for virus prevention campaign
Amber Wang (Agence France-Presse) - February 17, 2020 - 11:53am

TAIPEI, Taiwan — While China deploys stern communist slogans in its battle against a deadly new coronavirus, democratic Taiwan has embraced cuddly mascots and humour to ease public anxiety and educate on best practices.

Images of cute animals have featured in daily social media updates from government agencies to tackle disinformation and prevent the spread of infections.

The health ministry has deployed a cartoon "spokesdog" -- a Shiba Inu called Zongchai -- that has proved a hit with hashtags of his name going viral and posts shared hundreds of thousands of times.

Recent contributions have included advice on hygiene and quarantine regulations as well as reminding people to use face masks judiciously given the ongoing shortages since the new virus exploded in China.

"Leave face masks for the people who need them, frequently wash your hands with soap, reduce touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands," read one update. 

In a Valentine's Day message, Zongchai offered practical advice for dating during an outbreak, from regular hand washing to staying sober and practising safe sex.

The post ended with a question: "What if I am single?" to which the pup quipped: "Stay home then!"

The foreign ministry has rolled out a pigeon in a facemask to announce entry restrictions on foreigners with recent travel history to China, adopting the slogan "Virus OUT, Safety IN".

'So quacking exaggerated'

The economic affairs ministry plumped for a goose when it announced that rumours of disposable paper meal boxes running out were "so quacking exaggerated". 

The message deployed a homophone where the word for the noise a goose makes sounds similar to the first character for the word "exaggerated" in Mandarin.

The approach contrasts with the Chinese mainland where authorities have tapped their well-oiled propaganda powers to wage a "people's war" against a virus that has killed nearly 1,800 people.

State media has heralded the importance of patriotism to tackle the outbreak in a campaign reminiscent of Mao Zedong's cries to mobilise the masses. 

"To visit each other is to kill each other," read one slogan in a quarantined district in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak. "To get together is to commit suicide."

Despite its cultural links and close proximity to China, Taiwan moved swiftly against the outbreak, quickly restricting and then banning arrivals from the mainland. 

The island -- which Beijing views as its own territory and keeps frozen out of the World Health Organization -- recorded its first death on Sunday but has kept confirmed infections to just 20.

There was brief panic buying of face masks before authorities limited each person to just two face masks every seven days using health insurance cards.

The island has also restricted the number of face masks a person can take abroad to 250. Last week, the coast guard stopped a fishing boat for attempting to smuggle out 71,000 masks.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which is loathed by Beijing for leaning towards Taiwanese independence, has been deft at deploying cute memes to win public support.

President Tsai Ing-wen won a landslide second term in January after an election where she regularly featured as an anime-style cartoon character in campaign literature.

In a similar vein, Premier Su Tseng-chang took to his social media accounts in cartoon form this week to warn against panic-buying toilet paper.

"We only have one butt, don't hoard, don't trust rumours," the post read. 

Once again, a clever homophone was deployed. In Mandarin, the first characters for "hoard" and "butt" are pronounced the same. 

2019 NCOV COVID-19 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS TAIWAN
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 30, 2020 - 6:41pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

October 30, 2020 - 6:41pm

The Department of Health says they do not recommend the use of necklace air purifiers for protection against coronavirus infections.

"The DOH clarifies that it is NOT ENDORSING the use of necklace air purifiers that claim to kill bacteria or viruses, or protect from COVID-19," the health department says in a statement.

"While these devices do not pose any harm, the DOH currently does not recommend using these devices due to lack of evidence of efficacy," it adds.

 

October 30, 2020 - 4:25pm

The Department of Health reports 2,006 new COVID-19 cases. This brings the total number of COVID-19 infections in the Philippines to 378,933.

There are 41,291 active COVID-19 cases. The DOH announces 38 new deaths and 636 additional recoveries.

October 29, 2020 - 9:18pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,175,992 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 11:00 GMT on Thursday. 

At least 44,561,260 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 29,949,000 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

October 29, 2020 - 4:11pm

The Department of Health reports 1,761 additional COVID-19 infections, bringing the national tally to 376,935.

As of Oct. 29, 2020, there 39,940 active cases. Thirty-three succumbed to the deadly virus while 740 more have recovered.

October 29, 2020 - 3:11pm

India on Thursday passes eight million coronavirus cases, with the world's second-worst-hit country bracing for a possible second wave ahead of winter and a series of religious festivals.

There have now been 8,040,203 cases and 120,527 deaths across the country of 1.3 billion people, according to the latest government figures.

The United States has seen 9.1 million cases and more than 230,000 deaths. — AFP

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