KMT echoes 'chips for vaccines' concept
Taipei, Jan. 29 (CNA) The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on Friday urged the government to take action to protect Taiwan's frontline healthcare staff following a hospital cluster infection of COVID-19 by trading locally produced semiconductor chips for COVID-19 vaccines from other countries.
"KMT legislators are deeply concerned about the situation at Taoyuan General Hospital and have expressed this to the caucus," KMT caucus whip Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.
The COVID-19 cluster infection was first reported on Jan. 12 at the hospital in northern Taiwan, with 15 confirmed cases to date.
Against this background, the KMT came up with a proposal at an extraordinary legislative meeting held that day in which it called on the government to exchange Taiwan-produced chips for vaccines from other countries to shield local medical staff from the threat of the virus, Lin said.
According to KMT Legislator Wan Mei-ling (萬美玲), she phoned Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) last week, asking the ministry to help after learning that staff at some clinics in Taoyuan did not have enough masks and other protective gear.
The ministry eventually distributed 45,000 N95 masks, 45,000 sets of protective gear and 2,000 hand sanitizers to these clinics on Thursday, she said.
The "chips for vaccines" idea was first aired by experts from the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research on Monday, with the aim of helping the country gain access to vaccines rolled out by several countries in the face of a stalemate in negotiations with other countries to acquire vaccines.
The idea followed news over the weekend that Germany has asked for Taiwan's help in easing a severe global shortage of automobile semiconductor chips.
In response to the development, Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said on Thursday that she had conveyed the "chips for vaccines" idea to German representative Thomas Prinz at at a meeting in Taipei a day earlier, in the hope that "Germany could assist Taiwan in obtaining vaccines within a feasible range."
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