Taiwanese experts to participate online in WHO global forum

02/09/2020 03:52 PM
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World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (center) / (Image taken from twitter.com/WHO)
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (center) / (Image taken from twitter.com/WHO)

Brussels, Feb. 8 (CNA) Taiwanese experts will participate online in a World Health Organization (WHO) forum next week to combat the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, a WHO official said Saturday, although Taiwan is fighting for greater inclusion.

"We will have Taiwanese colleagues online, as we will have experts from the rest of China online," Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said at a press conference.

Ryan was responding to a reporter's question on whether Taiwan will be participating in a WHO global research and innovation forum on the virus, which is being held Feb. 11-12 in Geneva, Switzerland, and whether Taiwan's inclusion would indicate a reversal in WHO policy.

Since 2017, the WHO has barred Taiwan from the World Health Assembly (WHA) and its meetings at the insistence of China, following the election of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party in May 2016.

Taiwan is also the only country with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus to be excluded from the WHO Emergency Committee discussions held recently in Geneva.

In the past week, however, a number of countries, including the U.S., Canada, Japan and the European Union, have renewed their support for Taiwan's inclusion in the WHA amid the ongoing outbreak.

With regard to the upcoming forum, Ryan did not explain the sudden inclusion of Taiwanese experts, nor did he confirm whether anyone from Taiwan has been invited to attend the forum in person.

He did say, though, that "many colleagues who are in high-risk countries (were) taking the opportunity not to travel," and that he was certain that experts participating in the forum online would "contribute equally to the discussions."

Ryan also emphasized that the WHO has been communicating with Taiwanese officials and public health experts.

Taiwanese experts have been engaging with officials from China and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control as well, Ryan said.

Asked about the forum, Taiwan's Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said it was still negotiating with the WHO for greater inclusion.

Kolas told reporters that Taiwan's sharing of its measures against the spread of the virus could contribute to global society, as Taiwan has managed the outbreak so far, with no signs of community transmission and one of the confirmed cases already discharged from hospital.

The WHO should not exclude Taiwan in the midst of a global health crisis, she said, and it is a mistake if the organization continues to pander to China in doing so.

In a statement issued Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said it is negotiating with the WHO for Taiwanese experts to attend the forum in person.

A decision on the issue will be made before Tuesday, Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), deputy director-genral of Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control, told reporters.

(By Tang Pei-chun and Chiang Yi-ching)

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