Taiwan should spearhead global health initiative to combat the Wuhan coronavirus

Taiwan can fill the leadership void where the WHO and China have failed

Taiwan CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang 

Taiwan CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang  (CNA photo)

Taiwan News (TAIPEI) — As a nation on the front lines of the battle for global health, unfettered by the compromised and incompetent World Health Organization (WHO), Taiwan has displayed a mature, effective approach to containing the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) and is therefore uniquely positioned to lead a new global health initiative to combat the pandemic.

As this global crisis continues to unfold, Taiwan should begin recruiting nations to form an alternative global health authority that will put humanitarian concerns ahead of political and economic ones.

Given Taiwan’s expertise in crisis management, emergency response, public health, and medicine, along with its geographic proximity to the pandemic’s epicenter, the time has come for the country to take a leadership position in addressing the lack of preparedness among nations of the global south and confronting the unacceptable failure of the WHO and the United Nations (UN).

As countries across the world scramble to impose meaningful travel restrictions and quarantine programs to limit the spread of COVID-19, the reality that Taiwan is an autonomous nation, independent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is becoming clearer than ever. Yet nations with outdated or compromised foreign policies continue to treat Taiwan with delusion rather than pragmatism, clinging to the political fiction that Taiwanese people are citizens of the PRC as they place undue travel restrictions upon them.

Fortunately, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is there to explain to these countries what should be common knowledge by 2020. In regard to the current pandemic, note that China has reported over 80,000 cases of COVID-19 infection and over 2,000 deaths, while Taiwan has reported fewer than 50 cases and only a single death (as of March 10).

International media outlets in Europe, Asia, and North America have praised the initiative and proactive approach adopted by the Tsai administration in dealing with this global crisis. Once again, Taiwan has proven its competence in disease prevention and the use of effective communication in raising public awareness.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (CNA photo)

It is time for Taiwan to apply those competencies globally.

The urgent need for a competent, uncompromised Global Health Initiative

Following the appearance of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, the world has witnessed how the actors that should have been most prepared in the realm of global public health have responded. Regrettably, the initial response of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and, subsequently, that of their confederates in the WHO, must be viewed as the critical failures that they are.

The Chinese authorities and WHO alike have displayed a disturbing lack of transparency that will have implications for years to come. Most troubling, the WHO’s unwillingness to act quickly upon actionable knowledge has revealed that the body has neglected its most basic responsibility to act in the interest of humanity.

Instead, WHO leadership has revealed that its priority is to serve the political interests of and defend the reputation of the CCP. This is intolerable.

By the beginning of March, the virus had spread to over 60 nations, with China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran being the most compromised. Now that the world is finally alert to the danger of the COVID-19 as a global pandemic, we can confidently state that a new phase of the coronavirus saga has begun.

Contrary to the messages of some panic-driven media outlets, the regions that are most at risk in the pandemic phase are not the developed societies of North America and Western Europe. Instead, it is the global south, particularly Africa and South America, that are likely to be hit the hardest in the coming months, with new outbreaks to be reported along with a disturbing spike in the number of unidentified and untraceable “patient zeros.”

If the WHO cannot be relied upon to coordinate an effective global strategy of prevention, containment, and treatment, then the world must address this gaping vacuum in global leadership. It must be filled quickly.

WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (AP photo)

Nations like Taiwan, Australia, the United States, and Japan are best-suited to coordinate an international response by sending advisors and response teams to consult with governments in South America, Africa, and parts of South and Southeast Asia. Helping to prepare the densely populated, undeveloped parts of these regions must become a priority for the entire world.

The spread of COVID-19 to every nation of the earth is almost assured at this point, but we must not give up hope that this spread can be kept at a manageable level and that it will not become a doomsday scenario for the most vulnerable communities.

Given that the WHO will likely be busy paying lip-service to China’s laughable “success” in containing the virus and trying to keep the global economy greased by warning nations against restricting travel when it is most prudent to do so, the world must recognize a sobering fact: the WHO has been compromised and is no longer able to fulfill its duties.

As the world edges towards all-out panic in desperate need of responsible leadership, the WHO waits for direction and permission from Beijing, thereby sowing the seeds of further human suffering. The world is looking for leadership, and Taiwan has an unprecedented opportunity to provide it.

It’s time for Taiwan to quit pandering to the WHO and the UN. The times are changing, and the island possesses all the competency and resources necessary to act as a new center for global health counsel and international cooperation.

Taiwan should marshal its forces and begin reaching out to the nations of the world to spearhead a new global health initiative.

Taiwan can offer cooperative training exercises along with easily executable response plans based on geography, regional infrastructure, and available resources. With danger on the doorstep of so many countries of the world, it is worth emphasizing that a reliable and experienced friend such as Taiwan is ready and willing to help.