The Ups And Downs Continue: What’s happening locally

The Ups: Taiwan’s dire water shortage has levelled off, though it could happen again.

I’ve mentioned Taiwan’s drought before and its effect on the semiconductor industry.  Without rain, chip supplies worldwide would have ground to a halt.  Thankfully, the Plum Rains and a minor typhoon have passed over and refilled our reservoirs.  But have the government and industry learnt their lesson, accepted climate change, and the need for producing Taiwan’s water instead of depending on rain?

With a few exceptions, all the major reservoirs in Taiwan are now at 40% capacity or higher, most of them well over 60% or better.  Some of those now full were at less than 20% at the start of May, most notable Sun Moon Lake which had turned into a mud flat.  Unfortunately, the largest reservoir at the south, Agongdian, serves Kaohsiung, the second largest city.  It is currently at 0.3%.  That’s not a typo.

And predictably, some people are whining about all the rain.  Fer crying out loud, we’re under lockdown and nobody can go anywhere, so why complain?  Speaking of lockdown. . .

The Up: Taiwan’s COVID-19 numbers have vastly improved.

A month ago, new cases were numbering 500 and deaths as high as 34 every day.  Because of many closures and limited movement, the numbers have improved to the point where schools and businesses could fully reopen by September 1 or earlier.

Unfortunately, there are selfish and arrogant people still around.  A massage parlour (read: hand job parlour) was operating illegally, and fined NT$300,000.  The owner refused to pay and to his dismay, the banks obliged the government by turning over the money from his multiple accounts.

Gambling dens have also been operating, with large numbers of bettors present.  Normally the police turn a blind eye to gang related activity such as this, but the spread of COVID-19 has made them willing to crack down where (for reasons I won’t say aloud) they otherwise wouldn’t.

There are still a number of selfish people causing minor outbreaks, but most get the message.  One of the biggest problems is what to do with the homeless because many have tested positive but the government can’t justify simply locking them up without having committed a crime.

Millions of vaccines doses have landed in Taiwan over the last few weeks, enough that half the population should be inoculated by the start of the school year.  The locally produced Medigen vaccine is also awaiting approval and could be available within a month.

The Down: Financial hardships are hitting many people.

Taiwan has finished its sixth week of lockdown thanks to selfish individuals (pilots, lions’ club members, a hotel that did not follow health protocols) who believed they were exempt from rules that others have to follow.  I really hope they get prison sentences, not just fines.

The closure of many service businesses has left people without income.  Some financial assistance is being offered to people, enough to last a month.  Either the government expects this to be under control soon or doesn’t want people see this as lasting months.

The government’s first priority is, of course, Taiwanese citizens and businesses.  That was expected, so was their priority of those with permanent residency permits.  What wasn’t expected was the complete abandonment of all other labour.  It is only after much uproar amongst foreigners that assistance is finally being extended to them.

Another issue causing outrage is the treatment of factory labourers and other blue collar workers, many of whom come from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.  They are not allowed the same freedom of movement as white collar workers from wealthier countries, being labelled a form of apartheid, and I agree with that label.  These people are being locked into their dorms and homes when not working, barely given any time to shop for food let alone move about the way I or other white collar workers can.

Personally, I could last without work until November or December, then I’d have to think about leaving.  (I’d like to ask for a handout, but that would just be a debt I’d have to repay.)  Many of my friends and people I know are reaching the breaking point. Without immediate income in the next few weeks, they and probably thousands of others will have to pack up and leave.  This is a brain drain that will place the cost of replacing skilled workers on employers instead of keeping them here at much lower cost.

One more positive: My employer has submitted the paperwork for me to be vaccinated.  Now I wait for the call.  Most foreigners are supposed to do it themselves, but for those who cannot speak the language and the registration system is online only, getting on the list is difficult.