US’ push to invite Taiwan to WHA sparks backlash as COVID cases surpass 1 million mark on island
Published: May 19, 2022 10:16 PM
Picture shows a drive-in COVID-19 testing site in Taipei, China's Taiwan island, on May 17, 2022. Photo: AFP

Picture shows a drive-in COVID-19 testing site in Taipei, China's Taiwan island, on May 17, 2022. Photo: AFP

COVID-19 cases have exceeded one million in the island of Taiwan, but Washington and Taiwan authorities still focus on playing political games to advocate for the World Health Organization (WHO) to invite the island of Taiwan to participate as an observer at the World Health Assembly, which sparked a backlash on the island with  netizens slamming island authorities' incompetence. 

The epidemic command authority on Taiwan island announced 90,331 local cases on Thursday, bringing total cases to 1,070,561.  Taiwan had a new single-day record of 59 deaths, which brought the island's COVID death toll to 1,235.

Instead of focusing on anti-epidemic work to save more lives,  regional leader Tsai Ing-wen is still keen on participating in the WHA, the decision-making body of the WHO, and thanked the US for its support. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday released a statement saying "We strongly advocate for the WHO to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer and lend its expertise to the solution-seeking discussions at the 75th WHA this May," boasting Taiwan's distinct capabilities and approaches in resilience to COVID-19.  

Blinken claimed that "Taiwan's isolation from the preeminent global health forum is unwarranted and undermines inclusive global public health cooperation."

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday that China firmly opposes the US' proposal, and urged the US to stop using the WHA to stir up the Taiwan question and abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiques.

Although clearly knowing that the island of Taiwan cannot participate in the WHA, Washington advocating Taiwan to attend the assembly is apparently playing the "Taiwan card" for political purposes  to create a "one China, one Taiwan" situation in the international community, which can showcase US "rock solid" support to Taiwan authority, Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The grandstanding  by Washington and the DPP authorities in the island have triggered antipathy among Taiwan netizens, who blamed  Taiwan authorities for only paying attention to political games.

Some netizens slammed Tsai Ing-wen and her administration as incompetent. 

"You do nothing but tell us empty slogans because it's clear that Taiwan can't help [the international community]," a netizen said about Tsai's tweet, noting that it is Taiwan that needs urgent help.

"With such a severe local epidemic, would you have time for international health care? " asked a netizen.

"Taiwan is mired in serious shortage of COVID testing kits, oral medicines and low vaccination. How can we solve the problem?" another asked.

With the sixth anniversary of Tsai's administration approaching on May 20,  polls in the island showed that the government's quarantine measures have caused public dissatisfaction with 48 percent of the public  dissatisfied with the vaccine policy of the past two years.

About 67 percent of the public said the government failed to make advance deployment in response to the latest outbreak.

While the cases spike in the island, the Tsai administration is easing anti-epidemic measures in an attempt to pivot toward "living with the virus," including cutting to seven days from 10 the mandatory quarantine for all arrivals and ending quarantine for COVID contacts with three vaccine shots. 

Xin warned the easing measures could lead to a worse epidemic situation in the island, and even collapse the local medical system.