Martin Vickers MP: Why Taiwan’s success has become a problem for WHO

Please read our Co-Chair Martin Vickers MP’s article published on “Comment Central“.

Taiwan first notified the WHO of Covid-19 on 31 December 2019, but regrettably the WHO chose to respond by publicly dismissing these concerns. Instead the WHO has chosen to accept, with no scrutiny or criticism, the word of the Chinese government, argues Martin Vickers MP

As the coronavirus gripped the world, closing all but essential services, separating citizens from their loved ones and changing our way of life in a way few would have previously imagined, one shining light defied the new world order. To date, Taiwan has contained the outbreak to just 428 confirmed cases and six deaths. As such, the Taiwanese people are largely able to carry on with their lives as normal. This is even more amazing if you consider the country’s links, through trade, economic activity and geography, with China.

Learning from the SARS outbreak in 2003, Taiwan knew that swift action was the key. Long before COVID-19 was a matter of public consciousness in the western world, Taiwan was putting in place measures to protect itself and its citizens. The screening of Chinese citizens entering the country began immediately followed by a complete border closure to anyone who had been in China as the situation developed. For its citizens, strict quarantine measures were introduced, production and distribution of PPE was ramped up and every effort to trace the flow of contact was made.

Taiwan benefits from a world-leading healthcare system. Just as in the United Kingdom, coverage is universal, but rather than being entirely taxpayer funded, the system revolves around a national health insurance plan, run by the government, covering everybody. The system has endured for 25 years and has public support over 80 percent. About 1 percent of its funding is spent on administration, compared to the NHS which spends £8 billion of its £100 billion budget. As the earliest signs of coronavirus began to emerge, officials at Taiwan’s National Health Command Centre began taking action to respond to the potential threat.

Sadly, the efforts being made were not fully appreciated at the time. Taiwan first notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the virus on 31 December 2019, specifically in relation to its concern regarding for potential for human-to-human transmission. But, regrettably, Taiwan are not members of the WHO and they chose to respond by publicly dismissing these concerns. Instead the WHO has chosen to accept, with no scrutiny or criticism, the word of the Chinese government.

Despite this, Taiwan is now outperforming the rest of the world and this will only advantage them more in the long run. It has been estimated that the economic cost of a one-month lockdown is a 3 percent contraction of full year GDP. Whilst the rest of the world is going to have to take tough economic decisions to bring their finances back on track after the pandemic passes, Taiwan will find itself in a very fortunate position.

This small but determined country has now refocussed its efforts to helping the rest of the world deal with the crisis. They are currently distributing 10 million facemasks globally, with a delivery arriving in London last week for use by the brave medical staff providing frontline care through the National Health Service.

Clearly, the middle of a global pandemic is not an appropriate time for an inquiry. However, once the worst is over and the world has returned to something resembling normality it will be imperative that answers are given to some of the burning questions that, arguably, should have been asked a long time ago. It is disappointing that it took such an extreme event to raise these questions but now they are being asked, it is essential that the opportunity to resolve them is not missed.

Taiwan is now a model. Economists around the world are studying the country’s handling of the greatest pandemic of a generation in order to determine how to avoid similar events happening in future. The WHO must acknowledge the legitimate and independent place of Taiwan in dealing with international health matters.

Video messages thanking Taiwan for donating masks to the UK

Please watch our Co-Chairs Lord Rogan, Martin Vickers MP and President Nigel Evans MP’s video messages thanking Taiwan for donating one million masks to the UK.

Lord Rogan, Co-Chair

Martin Vickers MP, Co-Chair

Nigel Evans MP, President

 

Question / Renewable Energy: Exports

Q Asked by Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick
Asked on: 16 March 2020

Department for International Trade
Renewable Energy: Exports / HL2649

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support exports by the renewable energy sector.

A Answered by: Viscount Younger of Leckie
Answered on: 24 March 2020

The Department for International Trade (DIT) undertakes a range of activities to support exports from the renewable energy sector, including those under the ‘GREAT’ campaign. DIT’s renewable energy sector team engages with UK exporters, and our international network of trade and investment advisors offers further help to exporters, with renewable energy and clean growth key themes.

For example, last year the Department worked closely with Taiwan, signing a Memorandum of Understanding to open up Taiwan’s offshore wind opportunities for UK companies. The offshore wind sector deal commits DIT and industry to increase offshore wind exports fivefold to £2.6 billion by 2030.

 

Question / Coronavirus: Taiwan

Q Asked by Lord Truscott
Asked on: 09 March 2020

Department of Health and Social Care
Coronavirus: Taiwan / HL2390

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the success of measures adopted in Taiwan to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 23 March 2020

United Kingdom officials continue to work closely with key multinational partners to ensure that the Government’s response to COVID-19 is guided by the international situation, the advice of organisations such as the World Health Organization, surveillance, data modelling and the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which provides expert medical scientific advice.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer is due to have a conversation with key experts in Taiwan to learn further information about their approach. We are enormously grateful for the support from foreign countries like Taiwan.

 

Question / Taiwan: Coronavirus

Q Asked by Lord Blencathra
Asked on: 13 February 2020

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Taiwan: Coronavirus / HL1631

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the World Health Organisation about including the 18 cases of coronavirus on Taiwan with the 40,000 in China; and whether they are concerned that this misrepresents the true position in Taiwan.

A Answered by: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Answered on: 26 February 2020

Alongside a number of like-minded countries, the UK has raised at the highest levels of the World Health Organisation the importance of having accurate data on Taiwan. It is crucial that there is an accurate picture of how the virus is spreading globally. Public Health England reports cases in mainland China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Macau SAR and Taiwan separately.

 

Question / Taiwan: Coronavirus

Q Asked by Lord Blencathra
Asked on: 13 February 2020

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Taiwan: Coronavirus / HL1632

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the World Health Organisation about sharing its information on coronavirus with the government of Taiwan separately from the information that that organisation has shared with the government of China.

A Answered by: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Answered on: 26 February 2020

Alongside a number of like-minded countries, the UK has raised, at the highest levels of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the importance of all states and territories having access to the most up to date information about COVID-19. This is consistent with the UK’s longstanding position that Taiwan should be able to meaningfully participate in international organisations such as the WHO, where statehood is not a prerequisite and it can contribute to the global good.