Utahns in Congress want Taiwan at World Health Assembly on COVID-19

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Citing Taiwan’s successful fight against COVID-19, Utah members of Congress are among a bipartisan group of lawmakers calling for the World Health Organization to allow the island nation to participate in its annual assembly next month.

Taiwan has seen just 1,100 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths among its 24 million people. It adopted vigorous measures for screening, testing, contact tracing and enforcing quarantines early in the pandemic.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said Taiwan’s handling of the virus proves it has “incredible” knowledge on world health issues.

“The COVID outbreak was exacerbated because the World Health Organization ignored warnings from Taiwan about human-to-human transmission of the virus,” he said. “We are worse off when Taiwan is excluded from the World Health Organization.”

The Chinese government has pressured WHO and other international organizations to exclude Taiwan, claiming it is a province of China and not an independent state.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said it is critical that Taiwan be allowed to participate in the World Health Assembly, scheduled for May 24-June 1 in Geneva.

“Excluding Taiwan from participation would play right into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party in its quest to strategically isolate Taiwan from the global community,” he said. “The United States cannot sit by and allow China excess influence on global organizations.”

Republican and Democratic leaders took to social media Tuesday using the hashtag #LetTaiwanHelp to demand WHO allow Taiwan to take part in the meetings.

The battle against COVID-19 has no borders, said Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah.

“Not only has Taiwan demonstrated its commitment to other nations fighting COVID-19, it’s also provided a strong example of how to leverage public health infrastructure and community support to have one of the lowest infection rates and fatality rates in the world,” he said.

Taiwan’s success should be attributed to early preparedness, health expertise, government competence and popular alertness, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan think tank.

The country’s screening, testing and contact tracing measures were helped by technology and big data, along with the cooperation of citizens who remained highly vigilant due to their traumatic experience with SARS in 2003, according to the council.

Transparency and open information were particularly important to Taiwan’s success. Its Central Epidemic Command Center, established after the SARS outbreak, releases information in daily briefings.

“Taiwan’s experience rebuts the misleading narrative that only countries with draconian authoritative powers can effectively combat the virus,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

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