by N. Peter Kramer
Taiwan, with its proximity to China and intensive people-to-people contact between two sides, bears the brunt of the Coronavirus (2019-nCO-V) outbreak in Wuhan on the Mainland. Taiwan has scaled up directly its immigration quarantine and health contingency measurements. On February 3 there have been 10 confirmed cases in Taiwan, fortunately one of these 10 patients has fully recovered while the others have not showed any sign of fever and kept steady improvement. Taiwan’s Health and Welfare Ministry announced successful extraction of 2019-nCO-V, making Taiwan the fourth country to isolate a sample. ‘It can be used to produce a lab-grown version of the virus and help accelerate the development of a vaccine and cure’, Taiwan’s Ambassador to the European Union, Dr Harry Tseng, told EBR.
At the moment, it looks like the outbreak of the Coronavirus is an even more serious challenge to the global health than the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that erupted in 2003. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. But Taiwan’s experts were excluded from the WHO Emergency Committee meetings held in Geneva on January 22 and 30 respectively. That means that Taiwan was the only country with confirmed cases having been excluded.
US Senators, including Mitt Romney and Cory Gardner, said China has placed pressure on UN-related agencies, such as the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), as well as the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) to exclude Taiwan from discussions. The US State Department critisised the ICAO for allegedly blocking users on Twitter who refer to Taiwan’s non-participation in the organisation. ‘Taiwan has a relevant and credible voice on transnational health issues, and the US has long supported its active engagement in international venues’, its spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. The EU, Japan, Canada and others have also renewed their support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO.
‘The root cause for Taiwan’s exclusion lies in a secret Memorandum of Understanding signed by the WHO Secretariat and China in 2005 which was never authorised by other WHO member states’, Ambassador Harry Tseng told us. “Under the MOU, the WHO secretariat designates its legal department as the only contact point for Taiwan. This not only creates a serious gap in the global health security system; it also undermines Taiwanese people’s fundamental human rights to health.’