This article was contributed by Hsieh Chang-ting, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan. Hsieh writes on the meaning of Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization (WHO)’s World Health Assembly to take place from May 18, 2020.
Nations around the world are searching for effective measures against the new coronavirus. The prevention of a global epidemic is not something that a single country can undertake. Taiwan has cooperated with the U.S., Czech Republic, and Australia in the development of vaccines and production of medical equipment. Taiwan’s membership in the WHO is essential in order to create a complete global network for disease control.
Based on the lessons learned from its loss of 84 lives in the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Taiwan has placed a great deal of emphasis on control and prevention of global infectious diseases. As of the end of April 2020, Taiwan had succeeded in keeping its death toll from the new coronavirus down to just six.
Taiwan received information about multiple cases of SARS-like pneumonia symptoms in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019. At that point, Taiwan strengthened its quarantine measures based on the premise that “human-to-human transmission” was possible. There is a view that the disease control measures of free, democratic nations are less effective than those of autocratic states. But Taiwan has shown that a free, democratic nation can contain an outbreak through the cooperation and understanding of its people.
Transparency in information disclosure and information sharing are of utmost importance in preventing global epidemics, and they are also what makes international cooperation so powerful. Taiwan had feared that its inability to obtain information the WHO would be a “leak” in disease control efforts. However, I would like to strongly emphasize that suppression of information and political discrimination are a far more fatal type of “leak.” In order for the world’s nations to share important information, I hope that Taiwan will be able to participate in this year’s World Health Assembly.