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Czech Republic to donate 30,000 COVID jabs to Taiwan

Doses among 2.39 million to be sent to nations in Africa, Asia, Balkans

President Tsai Ing-wen (left) and Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil meet on Sept. 3, 2020.

President Tsai Ing-wen (left) and Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil meet on Sept. 3, 2020. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Czech Republic has greenlit a donation of 30,000 COVID-19 shots for Taiwan, becoming the third European country to come to the aid of the vaccine-strapped East Asian nation.

Prague, which now has a vaccine surplus, will donate a total of 2.39 million doses to countries in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans as part of the Team Europe Initiative, Czech Minister of Health Adam Vojtech wrote on Twitter Monday night (July 26). Of these, 250,000 will end up in Vietnam and 30,000 in Taiwan.

The European Commission announced in May that the EU planned to give away at least 100 million doses to low and middle-income nations by the end of the year, primarily through COVAX.

Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil thanked his country's government for the donation, which he stated has "strong symbolic value" for him and demonstrates "concrete help to a country [Taiwan] that has already helped us on several occasions."

Late last August, Vystrcil led an 89-member Czech delegation to Taipei despite strong protestations by China. The visit, aimed at exploring opportunities for collaboration and showing solidarity between democracies, culminated in Vystrcil's declaration "I am a Taiwanese" in Mandarin during a speech in front of the Legislative Yuan.

During the trip, it was revealed that Autoland Technology Co., Ltd. (東建安公司) and other local machine industry leaders had raised funds to gift the Czech Republic with five automated mask lines, each capable of producing 30 medical masks per minute.

The Czech Republic's announcement is the latest sign of burgeoning goodwill between Taiwan and a nation in Central or Eastern Europe. The announcement comes on the heels of similar declarations by Slovakia, which has promised Taiwan 10,000 doses, and Lithuania, which has pledged 20,000. Both of those nations said the vaccines were thanks for the thousands of masks donated by Taiwan early in the pandemic.

Despite its success keeping the virus at bay for over a year, Taiwan was caught off guard in May as relaxed quarantines for pilots led to the country's first major outbreak before it had acquired a sufficient number of vaccine doses. Taipei's attempts to secure jabs were allegedly further frustrated when a Chinese executive of vaccine maker BioNTech intervened in a deal between that company and the Central Epidemic Command Center, leading to it being scuttled.

As of Saturday (July 24), 4.57 million, or about 43%, of the Czech population had been fully vaccinated, while only about 1% of Taiwanese had completed the two-dose regimen. Taiwan has confirmed 15,582 COVID infections and 778 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Vietnam, which also received accolades for its early handling of the pandemic, has recently been gripped by a wave of infections, logging more than 83,000 since April. The capital of Hanoi joined Ho Chi Minh City in a lockdown Saturday after nationwide cases surged to a record 7,295 in a 24-hour period.

Updated : 2021-09-19 20:19 GMT+08:00