Statement of ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen on the Corona virus, the WHO and Taiwan:
As ALDE Party President and as President of Honour of Liberal International, I feel a deep concern about the way Taiwan is treated by the WHO in the case of the recent outbreak of the novel Corona virus (2019-nCoV) which originates from the city of Wuhan in China. January 30, the WHO declared the Corona outbreak a Public Health Emergency of international Concern. As of today this epidemic claimed more than 360 lives, infected more than 17,000 people and spread to 24 countries with 150 confirmed cases beyond China, including several cases of human-to-human transmission in Germany, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and the United States.
Taiwan with its proximity to China and intensive people-to-people contacts bears the brunt of this epidemic. There have been 10 confirmed cases in Taiwan, 3 of which were infected by family members who had travel records to Wuhan. In response, Taiwan has scaled up its immigration quarantine and health contingency measures. Fortunately, one of the 10 patients in Taiwan has fully recovered while the rest has shown no sign of fever and is recovering. The Taiwanese are on the way of developing a vaccine which could cure patients infected by the Corona virus.
However, Taiwan’s experts were excluded from the WHO Emergency Committee meetings held on January 22 and 30 in Geneva. In fact, Taiwan is the only country with confirmed cases being excluded from these meetings. The root-cause for Taiwan’s exclusion lies in an undisclosed MoU signed by the WHO Secretariat and China in 2005. Under the MoU, the WHO Secretariat designates its legal department as the only point of contact for Taiwan, making Taiwan’s participation in technical meetings impossible. This not only creates serious gaps in the global health security system, it also undermines the fundamental right to health of the people of Taiwan.
The outbreak of 2019-nCoV is an even more serious challenge to global health than SARS that erupted in 2003. Lessons must be learned from past mistakes. Diseases do not know borders. Only when every member of the international community is included in the collective efforts to fights diseases, can we effectively mitigate the impact of the pandemic outbreak of such diseases. Including Taiwan in the WHO mechanism will realize a collective global disease prevention network in accordance with the vision of the WHO. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Japanese colleague Shinzo Abe should be praised for their support of Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO framework. I hope that the European Union and its Member States will follow their example.