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Taiwan beat covid-19: At the WHO, it’s still fighting for a seat at the table

  • Taiwan beat covid-19: At the WHO, it’s still fighting for a seat at the table
    Taiwan beat covid-19: At the WHO, it’s still fighting for a seat at the table
Region:
Asia
Category:
Politics
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 Taiwan's health minister on Friday urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider the factors of humanity and human rights in protecting world health, as he admitted the chances of Taiwan attending the international health body's annual assembly this year are slim.

With just 440 covid-19 cases and seven deaths, Taiwan looks to have conquered the coronavirus. Its 24 million residents have not faced a lockdown; schools, shops and offices have remained open, and the capital's sidewalks, subways and shopping areas are bustling.

Taiwan has won praise for its effective response and donations of medical equipment, including millions of face masks — the fruits of a campaign to combine health diplomacy and relief with an effort to bolster Taiwan's international image.

"Because of the success in dealing with coronavirus, I think we face a new situation in our diplomacy, and we have a lot of new friends, new partners and new possibilities," Joseph Wu, Taiwan's foreign minister, said in an interview.

One symbol of recognition remains elusive: an invitation for Taiwan to observe next week's World Health Assembly. Despite a growing pro-Taiwan coalition backing their inclusion, health officials in this self-ruled democracy remain sidelined from the World Health Organization's decision-making body at the urging of China's government, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has sought to sever its international contacts.

 Taiwan's health minister on Friday urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider the factors of humanity and human rights in protecting world health, as he admitted the chances of Taiwan attending the international health body's annual assembly this year are slim.

The World Health Assembly (WHA), the policy-setting body of the WHO, is scheduled to hold its 73rd session in Geneva May 18-19 by videoconference. However, Taiwan still has not received an invitation from the WHO to attend, despite growing international support.

"We have yet to receive an invitation, but we will strive until the last minute because participating in the assembly is significant to Taiwan in terms of public health," Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at a press conference in Taipei.

He pointed out that Taiwan has a great deal to share in the medical field, particularly in terms of the country's health insurance coverage, medical system and long-term care.

Taiwan also plays an important role in infectious disease prevention due to its position as an international transportation hub, Chen said.

Transmission chains of infectious diseases detected in Taiwan could be reported to the WHO far more precisely if Taiwan were to be a member of the organization, he argued.

"Organizations such as the WHO should protect global health by taking humanity and human rights into consideration," Chen said, reiterating that Taiwan's spirit of humanity and mutual assistance are worth sharing.

Although the chances of WHA participation by Taiwan this year are slim, the process of vying for participation has increased the country's visibility and has allowed it to establish closer cooperation with allies and like-minded countries, Chen said.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), 29 foreign governments had expressed support for Taiwan's participation in the WHA through various avenues as of Friday.

These include issuing statements, writing letters to the WHO, direct discussions with the WHO, making remarks during legislative sessions and answering questions from the media, MOFA said in a statement.

Several high-level foreign government officials have openly voiced support for Taiwan, MOFA added, citing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as examples.

In addition, lawmakers from 43 countries have called for Taiwan's participation in the WHA and more than 600 politicians from other countries have written to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the matter, MOFA said.