In a post on his Facebook page, Su posted his unique response to panic-buying with the hashtags ‘#thereisstock’ and ‘#youcannotfinishbuyingitall’, drawing likes and laughter from some 149,000 social media users in a rare moment of lightheartedness amidst the outbreak.
“Buy as much as you like, we have a lot of supply. Spend more and eat more fruits and vegetables too!” Su said.
“The government’s public grain depot has 900,000 tons of supply, so grains are very much sufficient. Local toilet paper factories can also provide enough for the whole of Taiwan at just 60% performance capacity, and there will be oversupply if at maximum performance.”
Su went on to encourage local consumers to buy more domestic food products so as to support local industries and help these to persevere.
“Taiwan is a fruit kingdom, a seafood kingdom, a food processing kingdom – in the face of the Wuhan pneumonia (sic) and the economic slowdown, of course the government is encouraging everyone to buy as much as possible,” he said.
“Together we can support local farmers and traders, as well as increased the momentum of local markets.
“The government has already informed all large merchants that it is necessary for them to stock up their goods. Taiwan’s local agricultural products need your support, so eat more fruits and vegetables to stay healthy, so we can fight the illness together.”
That said, although buying more is encouraged, Su has also said that hoarding is not, and such actions will be punished.
“Any actions taken to hoard supplies for personal gain or spread fake news are considered serious violations of the law. I have ordered the authorities that anyone who spreads rumours to take advantage and hoard products illegally must be dealt severe and rapid punishment,” he told United Daily News.
Taiwan and COVID-19
Su’s ability to address the situation with humour has perhaps stemmed from the country’s successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to date - Taiwan has been repeatedly praised by global media and experts with regard to its handling of the situation, particularly in terms of transparency and speed.
According to The Diplomat, Taiwan had taken action to prevent the virus’ spread locally in late December 2019, and also set up a Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) in January 2020, followed by holding near-daily press conferences to inform the public of new developments and clarify rumours circulating on social media.
Actions taken included early mandatory self-quarantines, temperature screenings, border controls and more, steps that other governments would soon undertake as well.
Taiwan Centres for Disease Control (CDC) chief Chou Jih-haw previously also said that the CDC had written to the World Health Organisation (WHO) as early as December 31 asking about the virus outbreak in Wuhan, but had not received any response.
"We asked them whether there's a possibility of human-to-human transmission. We sked them and reminded them of the matter," he said at a press conference earlier this year.
Regardless, Taiwan’s early measures appear to have served it relatively well – despite its close proximity to China, the first epicentre of the outbreak, as of March 31 it has reported 306 cases and three deaths, far less compared to the thousands in other places such as Europe and South Korea.