CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan-Singapore talks on mask donation still on track: MOFA

04/12/2020 09:18 PM
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Taipei, April 12 (CNA) Taiwan's foreign ministry said Sunday that discussions on a donation of surgical face to Singapore are still in progress between the two countries, despite the apparent reservations expressed by Singapore's first lady.

The personal views of an individual will not affect the ongoing talks between Taiwan and Singapore on the mask donation to help the city state in its fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said.

Taiwan will make an official announcement at the conclusion of the discussions, MOFA said, when asked to comment on a controversial social media post by Singaporean first lady Ho Ching (何晶) that seemed to express reservations about Taiwan's planned donation of masks.

The Singaporean authorities have "responded positively" to Taiwan's offer, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said, but she did not elaborate.

Ou said Taiwan and Singapore have maintained close ties for decades and the two-way friendship is long-lasting.

On the matters of government policy, the public should focus more on the official statements put out by the two governments rather than on an individual's comments, Ou said.

"The cordial relationship will not be affected by an individual's personal views," Ou told reporters, in response to questions about a Facebook post Saturday by Ho, the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍).

In the post, Ho shared a link to an English-language news story on the Taiwan News website on April 10, which was headed "Taiwan to donate medical masks to Singapore."

Under the link, Ho posted a cryptic comment, "Errrr…", which seemed to indicate that she was not keen on the idea.

In other comments under the post, some Singaporeans said Ho's apparent lack of enthusiasm over the donation offer was because of the Taiwan government's current ban on the export of surgical face masks.

The Taiwan government imposed the export ban from Jan. 24 to the end of April, saying it was part of the country's efforts to ensure a steady domestic supply of masks during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The ban, however, has affected the mask supply to Singapore, which had two surgical mask production lines in Taiwan, according to netizens.

Ou said, however, that Taiwan's export ban does not apply to the production lines of foreign countries.

The Singaporean manufacturer that was based in Taiwan has moved its mask production lines back to Singapore, she said.

Taiwan has been making donations of surgical masks to countries hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the United States and 11 European countries, as well as to its 15 diplomatic allies.

In early April, Taiwan's daily surgical mask output reached 13 million, more than four times its production level in early February, according to the government.

On April 9, Taiwan said it will also donate masks to some of the countries listed in its New Southbound Policy, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and 18 countries in Southeast and South Asia.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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