Vietnam lifts ban on Taiwan flights amid confusion stoked by WHO

Vietnam lifts arbitrary flight ban as WHO continues to lump Taiwan in with China on outbreak reports

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MOFA Twitter image.

MOFA Twitter image.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — On Saturday evening (Feb. 1), Vietnam lifted a ban it had imposed on direct flights from Taiwan earlier that day amid confusion caused by the World Health Organization's inclusion of Taiwan as a part of China in its reports on the Wuhan coronavirus.

On Friday (Jan. 31), Italy banned all direct flights from Taiwan, and Vietnam followed suit on Saturday as part of drastic measures to prevent transmission of the coronavirus 2019-nCoV. Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Italy's decision was made under the misconception that Taiwan is part of China, as the same order also applies to flights from Hong Kong and Macau.

According to a report by AFP, the Italian government said it was the first government of a European Union country to suspend all flights from China, but it did not mention Taiwan. Vietnam announced Saturday afternoon it would halt flights from China effective Feb. 1 to May 1, an order which included Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

On Sunday (Feb. 2), Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) blasted the World Health Organization (WHO) for causing flight bans to be imposed on Taiwan by designating the country part of China and accusing its leaders of living in a "parallel universe," reported CNA. Wu blamed Italy and Vietnam's decisions on "inaccurate information" provided in the WHO's report on the novel coronavirus.

At 7 p.m. on Saturday evening, Taoyuan International Airport Co. told media that the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam has removed the border control against Taiwan, but it remains on China, Hong Kong, and Macau. In response, Taiwan's embassy in the Vatican posted a tweet in which it rejoiced in the lifting of the flight ban and wrote that "Taiwan is a democratic and independent country with a health care system that is among the best in the world and is separate from that of China."

Italy, however, has inexplicably maintained its ban on flights from Taiwan despite protests from Taiwanese officials. Wu is asking Taiwanese diplomats around the world to explain to foreign nations that WHO's inclusion of the country is erroneous and should not affect flights.

Wu told the press in Taiwan, "Taiwan is Taiwan. Taiwan is not a part of the People’s Republic of China," reporters Reuters. "This simple reality the WHO should not get wrong," said Wu.