April 20 2020
The United States, which has now suffered about 15,000 Covid-19 deaths yesterday accused the World Health Organisation (WHO) of playing politics by ignoring early Covid-19 warnings by Taiwan.
The US State Department yesterday said the WHO was too late in sounding the alarm over Covid-19 and has been overly deferential to the Chinese government, which country was where the pandemic started late last year.
It also questioned why WHO did not pursue a lead from the Taiwan’s warnings.
It said the US was “deeply disturbed that Taiwan’s information was withheld from the global health community, as reflected in the WHO’s January 14, 2020 statement that there was no indication of human-to-human transmission.
“The WHO once again chose politics over public health,” said the department’s spokesperson, who also criticised the WHO for denying Taiwan even observer status since 2016.
The WHO’s actions have “cost time and lives,” she added.
China, which considers Taiwan a rogue province has sought to exclude it from all international organisations.
Taiwan, which has succeeded in limiting its Covid-19 casualties to just five deaths despite the island’s proximity and ties with China, warned the WHO on Dec 31 of human-to-human transmission.
Its vice- president Chen Chien-Jen, who is an epidemiologist, told the Financial Times that Taiwanese doctors had learned that fellow medical workers in Wuhan were falling ill but their reports were not acted upon by WHO.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian doctor turned diplomat had singled out Taiwan and said he had been subjected to insults including racial slights.
“Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan. Their foreign ministry knew about the campaign. They didn’t disassociate themselves. They even started criticizing me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I didn’t care,” Tedros said.
Taiwan, in response described Tedros’ comments as “baseless” and said it was seeking an apology for “slander.”
“Our country has never encouraged the public to launch personal attacks against him or made any racially discriminatory comments,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou.
President Tsai Ing-wen in a Facebook post invited Tedros to visit Taiwan and learn from its handling of the epidemic, challenging him to “resist pressure from China.”
“We have been blocked from international organisations for many long years and we know what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated more than anyone else,” she said.
Beijin has meanwhile accused Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party of engaging in “political manipulation” after her cogmment about the WHO.
“Its true aim is to seek independence through the pandemic. We are firmly opposed to this, and their scheme will never succeed,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.