Health minister rejects Beijing’s WHA claim

The health minister, Chen Shih-chung, has hit back at comments by China's government concerning Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA).

China's Taiwan Affairs Office had suggested that it is not essential for Taiwan to be present at the WHA meeting in Geneva later this month. The office said that Taiwan is able to take part in various technical meetings under the World Health Organization (WHO). As such, the office said, the health of Taiwan's people and the question of Taiwan's attendance at the WHA are two separate matters.

Chen said Thursday however that Taiwan's ability to take part in technical meetings is also frequently hampered by China's political interference. He said that this was something that could potentially have serious consequences in the event of an outbreak of disease.

Chen said, "An epidemic is not something that waits for you. Why the urgency about this? Because if there were a global flu outbreak, and there were a gap in the epidemic prevention response, time would be absolutely of the essence. Every minute lost, every hour, every day means the consequences will be greater. So we need direct contact, real-time information to minimize the amount of damage. That is the only way we can face an unexpected outbreak of disease."

The health minister said that Taiwan experienced an outbreak of H7N9 bird flu in February and was prompt to report the situation to the WHO as a matter of course.

The WHA, the convening body of the World Health Organization, will open in Geneva on May 22. Taiwan has attended as an observer for the past eight years. This year, however, Taiwan has not received an invitation due to Beijing's boycott of the Tsai Ing-wen administration.

Source: Radio Taiwan International