Coronavirus: exclusion from WHO harms Taiwan

Led by the US, many countries are demanding that Taiwan be accepted by the organisation. Beijing's opposition complicates Taiwanese efforts to contain the epidemic. Taipei complains that international flights to the island have been cancelled because WHO treats it as part of China.

 


Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Support for Taiwan's place in the World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to grow.

The exclusion is due to the opposition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which considers the island a rebel province, and this is making it hard for Taiwanese authorities to contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Taiwanese experts are unable to attend WHO emergency meetings because of Chinese pressure on the organization's top management.

As of 7 February, 16 cases have been reported in Taiwan. The island paid a high price in human lives during the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.

Local authorities have suspended flights to and from mainland China for fear of further contagion. The restrictions also apply to travel to Hong Kong and Macau.

Maritime links between the Kinmen Islands, Matsu and Penghu and the Chinese province of Fujian have also been halted.

The United States, backed by Taiwan’s diplomatic allies (Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nauru, Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Marshall Islands, but not the Vatican), has asked the WHO to open a direct channel with Taiwanese health authorities and involve them in joint efforts to contain the emergency.

The Taiwanese government has accused the WHO of providing "inaccurate" information on the epidemic.

In its reports Taiwan is indicated as part of China, which has pushed countries like Italy and Vietnam to suspend flights to and from the island.

After the protests by the Tsai Ing-wen government, Hanoi lifted the ban, whilst Rome kept it in effect.

The European Union, Canada, Australia and Japan have also renewed their support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer.

Since 2017, immediately after Taiwan elected Tsai Ing-wen as president, WHO stopped inviting Taiwan to the WHA under pressure from the PRC.

The latter has accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and President Tsai of seeking the island's formal independence from mainland China.

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