WENSHAN DISTRICT, TAIPEI CITY — A few days ago, I wrote about an afternoon over in the Ximending area, and some of the precautions that pubs and restaurants were taking against the 2019-nCoV: disinfecting customers, taking temperature readings, and generally just trying to make the best of an uncertain situation. It was a sunny Friday, I’d just left a consulting meeting, and I’d just gotten paid, so I joined the crowds for a mix of claw machines, pubs, and a general walk-about.
As it turns out, Ximending is a very popular area … and that includes with the growing cruise industry in Taiwan. Keelung Port, less than 30 kilometers from Taipei City, is among the busiest shipping port in the world–primarily for shipping, but with a growing cruise and tourism business as well.
Among the throngs visiting Ximending that afternoon was a on-shore group from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. For those following the news, that name might sound familiar. A cruise ship currently under quarantine with (as of this writing) 61 confirmed cases of coronavirus onboard.
Up until today, the local reactions to coronavirus in Taiwan has been more or less calm and contained. That changed a little bit at 7:45 p.m. last night: a message via LINE (translated and transferred to my by a dear friend) asked individuals visiting those areas to practice self-management.
Self-management. It’s a polite way of requesting quarantine: staying home as much as possible, avoiding any crowds (including public transportation), and keeping the face mask on when out in public.
I got the news over dinner, right as I was talking about my plans for the the 2020 Taiwan Lantern Festival, kicking off in Taichung … as I write this blog from the safety of my one-bedroom self-management zone, rather than the crowds of the festival. A double-bummer, as I’ll miss the Pokemon Go event also. *sigh*
Counting back from 31 January 2020, 14 days of self-management will last through to 14 February 2020–Valentine’s Day, back in the US. Out of the most abundant of caution, following the recommendations pretty closely. I’ve got my dorm room mostly closed up, with some extra food, water, coffee, and beer in the fridge. It’s not an official quarantine (those involve daily check-ins, and a missed call can result in a several hundred thousand dollar fine), so I can still visit local spots. Always with a face mask, and generally avoiding any contact or close quarters.
My gracious hosts here at National Chengchi University were able to secure a two-bedroom apartment for me on Monday, so at least the back-half of this self-management will be a bit more cozy. There, I’ll also have a kitchen, so I can hunker down with a few new Taiwanese recipes.
And sure … I do some writing and reading for work, I suppose.
To make it clear: I’m feeling totally fine. The mind has a way of playing tricks on you. Shortly after receiving the news, my throat started feeling strange and I felt a bit flush. Compounding those feelings is that it’s been cold lately, so I’m waking up in the mornings with a slight cough through the chilly morning air.
None of that is coronavirus, but it’s in the very back of your mind. I read so much about the “coronavirus panic” and I’ve mocked it myself at times (the US news media seems really keyed up about the “killer Asian flu” or some other variant). Yet here I am: sitting at home out of an abundance of caution.
Maybe that’s not so bad, right? Certainly, Witte (1992) would suggest that the (a) fear of coronavirus combined with (b) the self-efficacy to avoid the virus through specific behaviors can encourage a danger control–accepting the messages, and acting on them. And if danger control keeps one more potential disease factor (me) off the streets, we can all (literally) live with that.
I’m a bit more interested in coronavirus now, or at least catching up on the news back home broadly — Iowa caucuses, impeachment trial, and my St. Louis Blues. I wonder where they’re at in the standings, so I can probably Google that …