Taiwan has shown that border controls are not in themselves protection against the Covid-19 pandemic. Loopholes in the quarantining of arrivals are believed to be behind the island’s worst outbreak since the coronavirus began its global spread, with a record 333 local cases on Monday . Social-distancing rules have been tightened, but because vaccination rates are low, there is concern that the surge and high number of untraceable cases could spark a crisis. Help is as close as across the Taiwan Strait, where there is a pool of medical talent, equipment and vaccines, although tapping it will require Taiwanese and mainland authorities setting aside hostilities to seize the opportunity. The world’s islands have largely been able to stave off serious coronavirus outbreaks through tight controls on the movement of people in and out. Taiwan had done that successfully, to the point that it had been widely praised as a model for preventing infections. Because of its achievements, Taiwanese had been lulled into a false sense of security, with social distancing relaxed to the point of limited mask-wearing and low rates of vaccination. That the only vaccine the island’s government had been able to secure was AstraZeneca did not help; concern about its safety after health scares in Europe and the small number of cases meant an uptake rate of less than 1 per cent of the population of 24 million. Hong Kong tightens entry rules for arrivals from seven Covid-19 hotspots There has been a vaccine take-up surge since the outbreak, believed linked to China Airlines staff and an airport quarantine hotel. With Taiwan’s first locally developed vaccine expected to be available in July, along with stocks of the one produced by the American pharmaceutical company Moderna, most Taiwanese have adopted a wait-and-see approach. But a delay could be a disaster given the pace at which the disease is spreading. The mainland’s Sinopharm vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization for emergency use and that made by Sinovac is likely to be given the same backing soon; if Taipei could set aside its political differences and put the health of its citizens first by reaching out to Beijing, there is a chance of also improving ties and easing cross-strait tensions. Taiwan’s predicament offers a salient lesson for Hong Kong. The city is a major regional trade and transport hub and therefore in a more vulnerable position; the economy relies on overseas and cross-border connections and they cannot be completely shut down, no matter how severe other parts of the world are affected. Hong Kong has two vaccines available using different technologies, offering options for citizens. Even as variants and mutations circulate, vaccination and the goal of herd immunity, along with mask-wearing, social distancing, testing and quarantining, remain the best means of coronavirus protection and prevention.