Thursday, December 03, 2020

The WHO needs Taiwan’s proven expertise in the battle against Covid-19

Nov 05. 2020
Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s minister of health and welfare.
Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s minister of health and welfare.
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By Chen Shih-chung
Special to The Nation

The Covid-19 pandemic has so far killed more than one million people, with over 40 million infections recorded around the globe.

The virus has had an enormous impact on global politics, employment, economics, trade and financial systems. Among countries striving to control the pandemic’s impact, Taiwan and Thailand have both performed excellently. The two countries are ranked No 1 and 4 by Bloomberg Economics on their efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19. The experiences gleaned by these countries during their fight against the virus are invaluable and worthy of sharing with the global community.

Taiwan responded to the threats swiftly by launching a specialised command system, imposing tight border controls, upping production and distribution of medical supplies, deploying home quarantine measures and IT systems, publishing transparent information, and implementing precise screening and testing. As of October 7, Taiwan had had just 523 confirmed cases and seven deaths; meanwhile, life and work have continued practically as normal for the majority of people.

The global outbreak has reminded the world that infectious diseases know no borders and do not discriminate. 

Taiwan believes nations should work together to address the threat of emerging diseases. 

For this reason, once we contained the virus and ensured sufficient medical supplies, we began to share our experience and exchange information on combating Covid-19 with global public health professionals and scholars through forums such as APEC’s High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy, the Global Cooperation Training Framework, and other virtual bilateral meetings. 

By June this year, Taiwan had held nearly 80 online conferences, sharing the Taiwan Model with experts from governments, hospitals, universities, and think tanks in 32 countries. Taiwan has held 13 online seminars with Thai scholars and experts alone, and many related online discussions with counterparts in various fields. Taiwan and Thailand, two recognised champions in the global fight, have been working closely together to combat the virus. Connections forged between the two countries in the heat of this battle have created a deeper, broader and closer bilateral relationship.

Taiwan’s donations of medical equipment and anti-pandemic supplies to countries in need also continue. By June, we had donated 51 million surgical masks, 1.16 million N95 masks, 600,000 isolation gowns, and 35,000 forehead thermometers to more than 80 countries. Thailand, being one of our valuable partners in our New Southbound Policy, was at the core of our attention. Taiwanese government officials and businesses in Thailand have donated more than Bt8 million worth of medical supplies and daily necessities for local needs. Donations included necessities such as oil and rice and extended to vital medical supplies including 1.35 million surgical masks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), oxygen concentrators, and portable ultrasound systems. The donations represent not only our care and love for our Thai friends, but also Taiwan’s unceasing commitment to further strengthen bilateral ties and share our public health experience with the world.

To ensure access to vaccines, Taiwan has joined the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) co-led by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; and the World Health Organisation (WHO). And our government is actively assisting domestic manufacturers in hopes of accelerating the development of vaccines and bringing them to market as quickly as possible to put an end to this pandemic.

To prepare for a possible next wave of the pandemic as well as the approaching flu season, Taiwan is maintaining its strategies of encouraging citizens to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, while strengthening border quarantine measures, community-based prevention, and medical preparedness. Furthermore, we are actively collaborating with domestic and international partners to obtain vaccines and develop optimal treatments and accurate diagnostic tools, jointly safeguarding global public health security.

The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that Taiwan is an integral part of the global public health network and that the Taiwan Model can help other countries combat the crisis. To better aid the world’s recovery, the WHO needs Taiwan. We urge the WHO and related parties to acknowledge Taiwan’s longstanding contributions to global public health, disease prevention, and the human right to health, and to firmly support Taiwan’s inclusion in WHO. Taiwan’s comprehensive participation in WHO meetings, mechanisms and activities would allow us to work with the rest of the world in realising the fundamental human right to health as stipulated in the WHO Constitution.

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Chen Shih-chung is Taiwan’s minister of health and welfare.

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