Post-COVID, Taiwan makes new plea for role in WHO

October 26, 2020

TAIPEI - Having earned worldwide plaudits for its success in tackling COVID-19 (the country of 23 million people reported a total of 523 confirmed cases and seven deaths), Taiwan has made a new plea to be granted Observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the annual meeting of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The 73rd World Health Assembly is scheduled to resume from November 9-14.

Taiwan also wants its observers to be permitted to join side technical meetings and professional sub-committees of WHO. Formal membership of WHO is open only to members of the United Nations.

Taiwan's Minister for Health and Welfare, Dr Chen Shih-chung, says the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that Taiwan is an integral part of the global public health network, and that what he calls the "Taiwan Model" of treatment and control can help other countries combat the pandemic.

In confronting COVID-19, Taiwan, like Vietnam, drew on its experience in dealing with the original SARS virus, which also originated in China.

Taiwan in December 2019 became the first Government to publicly disclose that what was then seen as possibly a new form of SARS had been identified in Wuhan, China.

"WHO needs Taiwan," Chen said in a statement. "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.

"Taiwan's comprehensive participation in WHO meetings, mechanisms and activities would allow us to work with the rest of the world in realising the fundamental human right to health as stipulated in the WHO Constitution."

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO, and is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States. It focusses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. 

Chen said Taiwan's Government was actively helping domestic manufacturers accelerate development and production of vaccines to bring them to market as quickly as possible.

"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, while also strengthening border quarantine measures, community-based prevention and medical preparedness," the Minister said.

"We are actively collaborating with domestic and international partners to obtain vaccines and to develop optimal treatments and accurate diagnostic tools to safeguard global public health security." (ATI).