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CECC head on Taipei mayoral election: 'Priority is curbing COVID'

Whether Chen Shih-chung will run for mayor has been at center of speculation

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Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Minister of Health and Welfare and head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) responded to speculation about a bid for Taipei mayor by saying he is still focusing his energies on combating COVID and that the outcome would determine whether he can enter the race.

CNA reported that Chen, who had remained tight-lipped about whether he plans to join the election or not, made the statement during CECC’s routine press conference on Friday (Feb. 18) in response to a remark by former Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). Lu had called for Chen to resign as soon as possible if he intends to run.

When asked about the issue on Saturday morning (Feb. 19), Chen reiterated that his priority is to lead the public effort to combat COVID-19 and that he would only “qualify” if he handled the issue well, per UDN. Chen was cited as saying he was not “waiting for a notification” and that the timing would present itself when “there is a light.”

“That is when everyone feels at ease and safe,” Chen added, nodding.

When a reporter tried to confirm that Chen would run a campaign “when people feel at ease,” Chen continued nodding. Reporters made note of the gesture as a positive signal, but Chen quickly said, laughing, “You can’t say that; this is such a huge trap.”

He said that there are many layers to the issue, and easing the public’s mind is just a basic condition. “There are many talented people in society. The candidate doesn’t have to be me and no one else.”

As Taipei Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan (黃珊珊) and Kuomintang Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) increasingly discuss the race and are perceived as potential candidates, the public has speculated that Chen may run to become the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate. While KMT politician Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) accused Chen of scheming for things beyond his position, Chen said he stated long ago that he would not do so.