WUHAN VIRUS/President urges China to share Wuhan virus information

01/22/2020 06:27 PM
President Tsai Ing-wen (right) and Vice President Chen Chien-jen
President Tsai Ing-wen (right) and Vice President Chen Chien-jen

Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called on China Wednesday to inform Taiwan about the spread of a deadly new coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan and said the World Health Organization (WHO) should not exclude Taiwan from the global efforts to contain the virus.

Tsai made the call at a news conference after Taiwan on Tuesday reported its first imported case of the new SARS-like coronavirus, dubbed the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which broke out in the eastern China city of Wuhan last year.

The Taiwanese patient is a 55-year-old businesswoman, who lives in Wuhan and returned to Taiwan on Monday with a fever, sore throat and other symptoms of the infectious disease.

Since Taiwan on Jan. 15 began mandatory screenings at airports of arrivals from high-risk areas of China, 26 people have been tested for the 2019-nCoV and there has been one confirmed case, Tsai said.

She said she had convened a national security meeting of senior government officials Wednesday morning to discuss how best to monitor the 2019-nCoV situation.

Meanwhile, the transportation ministry has raised its travel alert for Wuhan to the highest level in its three-tier system, advising travel agencies to cancel all tours to Wuhan and all trips from the Chinese city to Taiwan, Tsai said.

She said, however, that there is no reason for the public to panic during the Jan. 23-29 Lunar New Year holiday.

People can safeguard themselves by keeping abreast of the latest government information about the viral outbreak and following the prevention guidelines, Tsai said.

She advised people to wear a mask if they are visiting a hospital or have a cough or chronic illness.

The president called on China, as a member of the international community, to take its international responsibility seriously by being transparent about the outbreak and sharing information about the virus with Taiwan in the interests of the people on both sides.

Political considerations should not be prioritized over people's health, she said, calling on the WHO not to exclude Taiwan from the global efforts to deal with the new virus.

Taiwan is part of the global community, and its 23 million people have the same rights as those in the rest of the world, Tsai said.

Taiwan has been on the frontlines of global epidemic prevention and has experience in that area, she said.

For example, Tsai said, she and several members of her administration, including Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), a former health minister, accumulated a lot of experience in the fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003.

In China, the death toll from the Wuhan coronavirus had risen to nine as of Tuesday, with 440 confirmed cases, according to the country's health officials.

Control efforts in Asia have generally been tightened, particularly in light of the Lunar New Year holiday, which typically sees the largest human migration on Earth as families reunite for the holiday.

On Tuesday, the United States reported its first case of the new coronavirus and said it was planning to begin health screenings at airports.

Thailand, Japan and South Korea have also reported cases of coronavirus over the past week, according to Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control.

(By Justine Su, Chen Chun-hua and Evelyn Kao)

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