Technology-Based Epidemic Prevention 2.0 – The next level of smart epidemic prevention services in Taipei City
Utilization of the latest technology to enhance epidemic prevention measures has become a mainstream strategy in the fight against the pandemic. By harnessing its solid capabilities in the field of ICT, Taipei City has successively rolled out numerous digital technologies to upgrade its epidemic control initiatives. These include the COVID-19 Dashboard, the expanded real-name registration, COVID-19 vaccination pre-registration, and Epidemic Prevention Taipei features of the Taipei PASS App, and the COVID-19 Relief Section. These services facilitate the epidemic prevention decision-making process and public service optimization, thereby ensuring the effective implementation of the City Government's epidemic prevention work.
In the wake of the local COVID-19 outbreak in mid-May, Taiwan raised its COVID-19 alert to level 3 nationwide. Upgrades of epidemic prevention measures have been accelerated in sync with the escalating epidemic. In line with rapid changes of the epidemic situation, Taipei City Government immediately expanded its control. All departments and offices activated their emergency response mechanisms and related prevention strategies to achieve an overall upgrade of the level of epidemic control and strengthening of relevant initiatives. Numerous innovative technologies have been adopted for the epidemic prevention decision-making process with the ultimate goal of containing the spread of the epidemic.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the epidemic, it poses unexpected problems and challenges in the areas of infection sources, diagnosis methods, transmission paths, quarantine, and variants. The Taipei City Government formed a Emergency Response Team as early as 2020 when COVID-19 started to spread all over the world. With a view to facilitating the daily monitoring of the state of the epidemic and ensuring a firm grasp of real-time information, the Taipei Urban Intelligence Center launched the visualized COVID-19 Dashboard in March. This tool shows the course of the COVID-19 epidemic in Taiwan and around the globe. In addition to basic information on the epidemic such as the cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths and death rates worldwide, the number of confirmed cases in Taiwan and Taipei City, and the number of incoming international passengers at Taoyuan Airport, the dashboard also provides a better understanding of the epidemic situation in Taipei City including the number of confirmed cases in each administrative district, gender and age distribution, and changes in the onset of the disease. It also provides integrated information related to face masks, quarantine hotels, and the flow of visitors in and out of public venues. Big data analysis based on backtracking and cross-comparison of real-time data compensates for deficiencies in the field of contact tracing and allows the rapid detection of potential cluster points with the ultimate goal of breaking transmission chains and minimizing infection risks in local communities. It can also serve as an important reference for the setting up of rapid test stations and dispatch of mobile rapid test teams.
Taipei PASS App: Real-name registration for epidemic prevention
After the COVID-19 alert had been raised to level 3, citizens were required to provide their personal information when entering public spaces to allow more effective contact tracing. The Executive Yuan introduced real-name registration via text message to provide greater convenience and speed up the verification process prior to entering stores. Telecommunication providers cover the costs of these text messages. Transmission is completely free and does not require the entry of data or use of special equipment. No personal information is retained by the stores. After scanning the QR code, a text message with the store ID and the recipient “1922” appears automatically, and registration is completed by sending the message. This fast, simple, and convenient process is available for stores, street vendors, public agencies, and public transportation.
With a view to providing optimized convenience for city residents, the Taipei City Government added a real-name registration feature to the scanning function of its Taipei PASS App. The operation interface of the app is even more intuitive and user-friendly than the “1922” text message-based registration system of the central government. Users can enter the number of accompanying persons, and the name and ID of the accessed public place are displayed automatically. Upon completion of the registration process, an easy-to-understand confirmation screen appears, allowing more intuitive inspection by control personnel. Following an upgrade of the QR code-based real-name registration services on July 16, a color-based identification mechanism based on the final digit of the user’s Personal ID No. (green for even digits, orange for odd digits) is now initiated after the scanning process. This upgrade accelerates the verification process and facilitates crowd control. It is worth noting that the “Leave” function enables users to automatically record the time when they leave the public place, which is conducive to more accurate judgments during follow-up contact tracing. The application range of this app includes public agencies, the four major convenience store chains, hypermarkets, department stores, and general stores. In addition, personal name-registration records can be queried via the Real-Name Registration Log, which also facilitates contact tracing. City residents can select different real-name registration tools in line with their desired application area. All submitted data is stored in the database of the Department of Information Technology, Taipei City Government in encrypted form and automatically deleted after 28 days. The goal lies in the full implementation of technology-aided epidemic prevention.
Taipei PASS App: COVID-19 vaccination pre-registration
Since the launch of the publicly-funded COVID-19 vaccination program in May, every municipal and county government has developed plans to ensure the optimal use of limited quantities of vaccination doses in line with the vaccine distribution allocations by the Central Epidemic Command Center. The COVID-19 Vaccination Registration and Appointment Reservation Platform was unveiled by the Command Center in early July. Citizens are encouraged to register their willingness to be vaccinated by logging in to the 1922.gov.tw. After completing the registration process, citizens who meet the vaccination criteria of the current stage receive a text message notifying them to pre-register for vaccination on their own.
With a view to providing citizens with diversified and convenient vaccination pre-registration channels, the Taipei City Government linked the Taipei PASS App to the pre-registration platform on July 16, thereby officially integrating it into the nationwide vaccination pre-registration service system. By selecting the “Vaccination Pre-Registration" function from the service menu, registration can be completed rapidly without having to fill in any basic information. This function also allows queries and management of pre-registration records in a convenient manner. According to the latest information on COVID-19 vaccination recipients and locations released by the Department of Health, Taipei City Government, a total of 12 outpatient departments of Taipei City hospitals, 34 hospitals, and 210 clinics provide special COVID-19 vaccination services in an outpatient setting as of the end of July. The goal is to enable city residents to get inoculated at the scheduled time and thereby reduce the risk of crowding. In addition, the COVID-19 Prevention Network of the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control shows the locations of all hospitals and clinics where vaccination services are available on a nationwide map. This website also allows queries of service hours, vaccine types, and counseling hotlines and provides citizens with detailed information related to the epidemic.
Taipei PASS App: Taipei COVID19
This feature aims to provide city residents with a real-time grasp of the current state of the epidemic. By selecting “Taipei COVID19” from the service menu, citizens can gain a clear understanding of different types of epidemic-related data including an epidemic overview (number of confirmed cases and positive rapid test results in Taipei and number of confirmed cases and deaths nationwide) and charts of the latest Taipei epidemic prevention press conferences. Users can select “More Data” to access the epidemic data dashboard covering information in different dimensions including epidemic trends and positive rapid test results for Taipei City and the whole island in the most recent week and month and an epidemic map showing the average number of confirmed cases per 10,000 citizens in each administrative district. The latest trends and developments are presented in visualized form through charts. In addition, users can proceed to other services such as vaccination pre-registration and application for relief from the bottom of the page in a convenient and fast manner.
In addition, the English version of Taipei PASS was officially launched on July 16 to provide services to an even wider range of Taipei City residents. Users can toggle between Mandarin and English via the service menu function. The goal is to ensure trouble-free use of the app by Mandarin and English speakers in Taipei City.
COVID-19 Relief Section – Online Application for Relief
The raising of the COVID-19 alert to level 3 in response to the rapidly escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan had a serious impact on the livelihoods of local citizens and various industries. With a view to alleviating this impact, the ministries and agencies of the central government introduced the COVID Relief Package 4.0 in June, in the hope of achieving maximum relief effects within the shortest timeframe possible. This advanced program which greatly expands the scope of relief is based on the four major principles of accelerated individual relief and assistance, reinforced support measures for industries, increased relief loans for businesses, and alleviated burdens. Eligibility criteria have also been widened. In addition to previous relief beneficiaries, children, self-employed persons, workers without fixed employers, workers without labor insurance, street vendors, part-time workers, and foreigners with permanent residency status are now also eligible to apply for relief. The Taipei City Government unveiled a special section with nine short-term relief measures on its Citizen Service Platform in June. The application range of these relief measures includes Citizen, unemployed workers, and businesses. This section enables citizens to apply for various services online without leaving their homes during the epidemic. It features a web-based QR code which can be scanned via the identification function of the Taipei PASS App to automatically load real-name data for verification. This fast and convenient online application and approval process aims to provide city residents with high-quality services coupled with optimal epidemic prevention effects.
The demand for information during the epidemic is enormous and highly complex. In addition to an integrated mechanism for the provision of accurate and up-to-date information to city residents, the City Government needs convenient and worry-free channels to ensure the continuity of municipal services during the pandemic. Against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving epidemic, epidemic prevention technology has turned into a key strategy to contain local outbreaks. The Taipei City Government adjusts its epidemic prevention measures in a flexible manner. Various innovative technologies are utilized to achieve further upgrades of municipal services. Noteworthy examples include the automatic vending system for face masks based on real-name registration unveiled in 2020, the real-name registration system for venues, the COVID dashboard launched in 2021, the expanded real-name registration feature of the Taipei PASS App, Book vaccination, Taipei COVID19, and COVID-19 Relief Section. These services not only speed up the execution of epidemic prevention tasks by the Taipei City Government but also demonstrate the value of technology-based epidemic prevention in a smart city setting. The use of smart epidemic prevention measures is the trend of the future. The City Government has made an ongoing commitment to promoting the smartification of municipal affairs through the adoption of highly-innovative concepts with the goal of accelerating the pace of progress.