Taiwan helps defeat coronavirus with donation of 10 million masks

President announces masks will go to worst-hit countries, in addition to providing drugs and knowhow

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. (Taiwan Presidential Office YouTube video screengrab)

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. (Taiwan Presidential Office YouTube video screengrab)

Update: April 1, 15:05

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan government has announced it is willing to donate 10 million medical masks to the countries hit hardest by the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Taiwan has scrambled to assemble 90 production lines since late January and can now churn out 13 million masks per day. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) even set a new daily production target of 20 million units on Monday (March 30).

Meanwhile, the adult-size mask ration is slated to increase to nine every two weeks from April 9. This is because production of surgical masks is gradually catching up with demand.

Though Taiwan appears to be curbing the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic continues to worsen worldwide and many countries face a severe shortage of life-saving medical supplies. This caused Javier Marion, the director of health in the Aragon region of Spain, to break down in tears during a recent news conference.

At a press conference on Wednesday (April 1), President Tsai said the island country is collaborating with the United States and Czech Republic to combat the virus. It also has a partnership deal with the U.S. and Australia for medical supplies and equipment.

"Taiwan can hardly be left unharmed by the global pandemic, so we should collaborate with other countries in fighting the virus," Tsai said. "We can't sit by and watch, we will provide masks, drugs, and knowhow to countries in need."

Tsai then announced a plan to give out 10 million masks for free as humanitarian aid to medical workers and people working on the frontline in countries most affected by the virus. In addition to the mask donation, the government will also provide much-needed drugs and share how to utilize big data to effectively track people that a confirmed case has close contact with.

"Taiwan has become the second-largest mask manufacturer with a daily production capacity exceeding 10 million units, and the growth momentum continues," Tsai said. "Today, Taiwan not only can help but is helping."

Speaking in English, Tsai continued: "Over the past months, we've seen countless acts of bravery and sacrifices from medical workers around the world. It's our duty as well as the global system to give them our full support."

"We need to step up cooperation and that means sharing experiences and materials and working together to develop treatments and vaccines. Pandemics cannot be stopped by one country alone, and Taiwan stands ready to do our part."

"We will donate surplus masks and other supplies to our allies and countries hit hardest by COVID-19. These supplies will go to medical workers and people working on the frontline to save lives."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement after Tsai’s speech explaining where the free masks will go. The agency said that 1 million masks will go to the country’s diplomatic allies, and 2 million masks will be distributed to U.S. medical workers, in addition to the existing 100,000 masks per week under a US-Taiwan partnership agreement.

The remaining 7 million masks, MOFA said, will go to the worst-affected European Union member countries, including Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

As of Wednesday (April 1), Taiwan has recorded 329 cases of COVID-19, including five deaths.