Beijing has offered to send vaccines and pandemic specialists to Taiwan as the self-ruled island struggles to contain an outbreak of coronavirus infections.
In a statement on Monday night, the Taiwan Affairs Office, Beijing’s main body for cross-strait affairs, said mainland China was prepared to make “swift arrangements” to supply its vaccines to the “vast majority of Taiwan compatriots”.
“If needed, we are also willing to actively consider sending epidemic prevention and control experts to Taiwan, to share ... experience with Taiwan’s medical and health professionals and provide counselling regarding epidemic control,” TAO spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said.
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The suggestion comes a week after Beijing made a similar offer to help, a proposal the Mainland Affairs Council – the TAO’s counterpart in Taiwan – criticised as an attempt by Beijing to polarise the Taiwanese people.
Taipei and Beijing are also mired in accusations of politicisation of Taiwan’s bid to take part in the World Health Assembly, the body that sets policy for the World Health Organization.
On Monday, Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said excluding Taiwan from the assembly would create a gap in the fight against the pandemic.
But Zhu said Taiwan had adequate notification of the pandemic and blocking Taiwan from the assembly would close off a path for Taiwanese independence forces.
On Tuesday, Taiwan reported more than 500 new coronavirus cases for a fourth day. The 544 new infections – 281 new local cases, two new imported cases and 261 cases delayed by a reporting backlog last week – took the total to 5,456, with 35 deaths.
Across the Taiwan Strait in Fujian province, health authorities said incoming travellers from the island had tested positive for the pathogen since Sunday. But the authorities did not give details.
Fujian was planning to open a travel bubble with Taiwan but abandoned those plans earlier this month as case numbers rose.
Taiwan has appealed to the United States for vaccines but it has only received about 700,000 AstraZeneca doses to date – well below the number needed for its 23 million people. It has millions more on order, including from US company Moderna.
On Saturday, mainland firm Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical said it was willing to provide Taiwan with BioNTech vaccines.
Hung Hsiu-chu, a former head of Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang, said over the weekend that the Taiwanese government should allow in vaccines from the mainland as soon as possible, saying they were accepted abroad and Taiwan could not wait.
“Lives are at stake, and we respectfully tell the Tsai government: the real enemy is the virus, not the mainland,” she said, referring to President Tsai Ing-wen.
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