Opinion: Taiwan Must Be Part of Post-COVID Global Health Network

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-Wen attends the 2020 Global Health Forum in Taiwan on Oct. 25, 2020. Image: Taiwan Presidential Office

By Dr. Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have more than 40 million cases and more than one million deaths around the world. The virus has had an enormous impact on global politics, employment, economics, trade and financial systems.

Among countries striving to control the pandemic impact, Taiwan and Thailand both have excellent performance. Two countries were ranked number 1 and 4 by Bloomberg Economics on the efforts of battling COVID-19. All experiences received by these countries during fighting against the virus are valuable and worthy of sharing with the global community.

Taiwan has responded to the pandemic threats swiftly through strategies such as the operation of specialized command system, the implementation of meticulous border control measures, the production and distribution of adequate medical supplies, the employment of home quarantine and isolation measures and related care services, the application of IT systems, the publishing of transparent and open information, and the execution of precise screening and testing.

Read: Recovery From COVID Will be Hard, And Taiwan Wants to Help

Taiwan has been fortunate enough to contain the virus. As of October 7, Taiwan had had just 523 confirmed cases and seven deaths; meanwhile, life and work have continued much as normal for the majority of people.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded the world that infectious diseases know no borders and do not discriminate. Nations should work together to address the threat of emerging diseases.

For this reason, once Taiwan had stabilized its containment of the virus and ensured its sufficient supply of medical resources, we began to share our experience and exchange information on containing COVID-19 with global public health professionals and scholars through related forums, APEC’s High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy, the Global Cooperation Training Framework, and other virtual bilateral meetings.

People wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they walk through a shopping district in Taipei, Taiwan, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Up to June 2020, Taiwan had held nearly 80 online conferences, sharing the Taiwan Model with experts from governments, hospitals, universities, and think tanks in 32 countries. Counting separately, Taiwan has held 13 online seminars with Thai scholars and experts alone, and many related online discussions with counterparts in various fields.

Thailand, being one of the well-performed countries in combating this pandemic, has imposed a strict border control and achieved great success in containing the severe public health threat.

Therefore, the two recognized countries, Taiwan and Thailand, with reputation of well-containing pandemic thus have been closely working together. Officials and NGOs workers have jointly sharing experience managing the pandemic. The aforementioned connections have manifested the width and depth of bilateral relationship between and will cooperate more closely.

Taiwan’s donations of medical equipment and anti-pandemic supplies to countries in need also continue.

Head of Taiwanese diplomatic mission to Thailand Lee Ying-yuan presents a donation of medical equipment to an organization assiting communities on the Myanmar-Thailand border on Oct. 20, 2020.

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 of our New Southbound Policy, has never been excluded from the core of our attention.

Taiwanese government and entrepreneurs in Thailand up until now have donated medical supplies and daily necessities in a total amount of more than 8 million baht. Donations included necessities such as oil and rice and further extended to significant medical supplies like 1.35 million pieces of surgical masks, Personal Protective Equipment(PPE), oxygen concentrator, and portable ultrasound system, etc.

The donations in all represent not only the care and love to our Thai friends, but also the unceasing momentum from Taiwan aiming to further strengthen the bilateral ties and share the 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 Organization.

And our government is actively assisting domestic manufacturers in hopes of accelerating the development and production of successful vaccines, bringing them to market as quickly as possible and putting 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, and strengthening border quarantine measures, community-based prevention, and medical preparedness.

A file photo of Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-Wen Image: Taiwan Presidential Office

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 Taiwan Model can help other countries combat the pandemic. To recover better, WHO needs Taiwan.

We urge 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 realizing the fundamental human right to health as stipulated in the WHO Constitution.

About the author
Dr. Chen Shih-chung has been serving as the Minister of Health and Welfare of the Republic of China (Taiwan) since 2017.