Intelligence agencies must track ecological threats and epidemics

After news of an unusual ‘pneumonia’ outbreak was confirmed on 31 December 2019, the Taiwanese government immediately initiated control measures that ensured that the island nation remained relatively unscathed by the covid-19 pandemic. The country of 24 million has suffered a mere 686 cases to date. Public accounts describe Taiwanese authorities as having found out about the Wuhan outbreak on New Year’s Eve from social media platforms that amplified a whistle blown by a mainland Chinese health worker. We should not be surprised, though, if we were to learn that Taiwan’s spooks had already figured out by then that something was afoot in Wuhan, a city that Taipei has intense traffic with. Thanks to the early warning, Taiwan started quarantining passengers starting 1 January 2020 and began investigations that a couple of weeks later uncovered that there was indeed human-to-human transmission of the virus, countering the Chinese government’s claims to the contrary.

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