China wants to offer face masks to Taiwan ally Paraguay: Foreign ministry

Taiwanese government has agreed to provide one million masks to South American ally

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Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said on Monday (March 23) that China said it would provide surgical masks to Paraguay should Taiwan be unable to make such offerings.

Wu was asked about the Taiwanese government’s plan to donate one million face masks to the South American ally amid the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak at a legislative session on Monday morning. The minister said the donation would be drawn from the existing government budget and the masks would be purchased locally in the region.

China has been in touch with the Paraguayan authorities via an intermediary, hinting at a diplomatic wresting in South America during the global crisis, according to the foreign ministry. China has expressed an interest in offering face masks to Paraguay, said Wu.

The first batch of the masks, roughly 100,000, has been acquired with each costing about US$40 cents, said Wu. Paraguay does not manufacture face masks and thus relies on imports.

With the disease still on the rise, face masks have become a strategic good and the world is facing a serious shortage. Wu said currently the government does not have plans to donate face masks manufactured in Taiwan to allies.

The ministry would make sure that diplomats, government officials, as well as their families based overseas receive at least three adult’s and five children’s masks every week, said Wu. As for the possibility of providing face masks to overseas nationals, the minister said the final call would be made by the central command authorities.