Geneva, Switzerland – Taiwan was ahead of everyone, deploying preventive measures as early as December in rumors of “atypical pneumonia” in China, and the island, which has only had seven deaths from COVID-19, wants to share its success story at the World Health Organization (WHO), but political obstacles prevent it.
Next Monday begins one of the most important annual assemblies for the WHO in its 72-year history, focused this year almost entirely on fighting the worst pandemic of the last century, and Taiwan wants to be part of it as an observer.
The island, which cannot be a member of the WHO because it lacks a seat in the United Nations (China “took it away” in 1971), has claimed it since 1997, and in fact managed it between 2009 and 2016, but it is difficult for it to go. to get it this time, just when your testimony can be more valuable than ever.RELATED
“We want to share our experience with the coronavirus,” Taiwanese diplomatic sources in Geneva point out to Efe, who in recent weeks have redoubled their efforts to try to enter the assembly, although they fear that it will close their doors to them again.
Taiwanese management success
The secret of Taiwanese good management before COVID-19 began with a fortuitous event: the expert Luo Yi-jun, deputy director of the island’s Center for Disease Control, could not sleep at dawn on December 31, and for distracting himself began reading an internet forum where a comment thread about a possible new disease in the Chinese city of Wuhan caught his attention.
The messages, which included warnings from Chinese doctor Li Wenliang (who would die weeks later from coronavirus, after being accused by the authorities of spreading “false rumors”), led Luo to alert the Taiwanese emergency prevention system, which is launched immediately.
That same day, which was also the day that China alerted the WHO to the existence of a new coronavirus, the Taiwanese authorities began to check all passengers on flights from Wuhan, a first measure that on February 7 it would become the closure of all air links with China.
With these and other measures it was achieved that Taiwan, separated from China by only 180 kilometers of sea and with almost half a million Taiwanese working in the neighboring country, only had 440 cases of COVID-19 in all this time, without having to resort to massive confinements of its population.
Taiwan’s clairvoyance in the face of a disease that did not start appearing in the news until after the New Year should be a model to be studied at the WHO assembly, but ironically it is difficult for representatives of the island to be there.
China hinders its passage to the assembly
The WHO maintains that for organizations, companies or territories outside the UN system such as Taiwan to be observers of the assembly, they must have the consensus of its 194 member countries, something almost impossible given the opposition of one of the most influential, China.
Between 2009 and 2016, when Taiwan was in the assembly, relations between Beijing and Taipei were experiencing a great deal of relaxation due to the approach to the communist regime of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, of the Kuomintang Party, historically linked to China.
However, with the arrival to the presidency of Taiwan of the independentista Tsai Ing-wen, of the Progressive Democratic Party, the relationship with China was broken and Beijing has imposed a policy of isolation towards the island that includes its non-participation in the assembly since so.
Taiwanese diplomacy defends that, if it were better integrated into the WHO, the first steps it took would have been better known by the member countries, and this could have had effects against the advance of the coronavirus.
“Our relationship is bilateral, only with the WHO and not with its member countries, which slows down our information. What we sent about our measures was not published on the organization’s platform, other countries did not know what we did, and if they had known now we could be in another situation, “they point out.
A personal matter
To make the Taiwan-WHO dispute worse, the organisation’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, surprised everyone on April 8 by assuring that he had received racist attacks from that territory, and assured that the island government had not distanced itself from them.
President Tsai voiced her strong protest at Tedros’ accusations, stating that Taiwanese have always opposed any discrimination and “know better than anyone what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated.”
Another issue that further tangles the current relationship between the Taiwanese island and the WHO is a famous email that the health authorities in Taiwan sent to the agency, also on December 31, asking for information about the cases of “atypical pneumonia” in China.
The email was used by US President Donald Trump as one of his main arguments to accuse the international organization of mismanagement of the pandemic and therefore suspend the important contribution of the United States to the organization.
The United States, a traditional ally of Taiwan, also asked WHO on May 8 that the island participate in the assembly, which immediately provoked the wrath of Chinese diplomacy: the great event that begins on Monday, like never before, It will turn Taiwanese participation into a new pulse between Washington and Beijing.