Taipei, March 18 (CNA) Taiwan and the United States are stepping up efforts to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak by sharing best practices and cooperating on a range of activities, according to a joint statement issued by the two sides Wednesday.
The two sides will form a partnership on the research and development of rapid tests as well as the research and production of vaccines and medicines, according to the statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
Other cooperation measures include sharing contact tracing techniques and technology, holding joint conferences with scientists and experts, and exchanging medical supplies and equipment, the joint statement said.
The statement was signed by Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Taiwan's foreign minister, and Brent Christensen, director of the AIT, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.
Meanwhile, in a rare appearance at the daily Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) press conference, which is usually hosted by Taiwan's health officials, Wu said the joint development of vaccines and rapid tests has already begun.
Wu also announced that the U.S. has reserved raw materials for 300,000 medical protective suits for Taiwan at a time when raw materials for medical items are in short supply.
At the same time, Taiwan will provide 100,000 medical face masks per week to the U.S. when its production capacity has stabilized, Wu said.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also serves as the CECC head, stressed that international cooperation to develop vaccines and rapid tests is essential in preparing for a potentially prolonged coronavirus pandemic.
Chen said Taiwan's government will first address its domestic needs before shipping out medical face masks to the U.S., adding that Taiwan's production capacity has reached 11 million masks per week and production lines are still being added.
That capacity is expected to reach 13 million to 15 million per week in the coming weeks, Chen said.
The raw materials for 300,000 medical protective suits to be provided by the U.S. is far higher than for the 100,000 medical face masks that Taiwan will send to the U.S. per week, he said, without providing any details on the relative values.
The statement may also have had some diplomatic symbolism because it was called a "U.S.-Taiwan Joint Statement" rather than the more customary "American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) Joint Statement."
A former MOFA official said it was significant that Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu, signed the statement but cautioned that the U.S. side was still represented by AIT and that the statement was related to a health issue rather than a political issue.