Taiwan was the “only” government to respond to a tiny Pacific nation’s global plea for crucial medical supplies such as surgical masks and testing kits, Palau’s ambassador to the United Nations has said.
Ngedikes Olai Uludong’s tweets were accompanied by images showing boxes of medical supplies being unloaded at the airport and sent to Taiwan’s embassy in Palau’s largest city and former capital of Koror.
She wrote: “Palau has been asking the global community for help and NO one responded except Taiwan! Thank you so much. Friends indeed!
“When ALL the experts says [sic], test, test, test! BUT no one to help…Thank you Taiwan. You know who your friends are!”
The South Pacific nation comprises around 340 islands and has a population of just over 21,000.
It is among only 14 UN member states – and the Holy See – to maintain full diplomatic ties with Taiwan amid mounting pressure from China to switch allegiance.
This week, Taiwan’s recently re-elected leader President Tsai Ing-wen, 63, pledged 10 million surgical masks to countries in need, including one million to its 15 diplomatic allies, two million to the United States and seven million to 11 European nations, including EU members.
The self-ruled island, over which Beijing claims sovereignty despite having no political influence, had banned the export of surgical masks at the beginning of the outbreak.
However, with mask production now stable and the emergence of a healthy surplus, Taiwan has loosened regulations and is sending aid to other nations under its slogan ‘Taiwan Can Help’.
On 1st April, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “The European Union thanks Taiwan for its donation of 5.6 million masks to help fight the #coronavirus.
“We really appreciate this gesture of solidarity. This global virus outbreak requires international solidarity & cooperation. Acts like this show that we are #StrongerTogether.”
In response to the latest round of aid to Palau, which so far has no confirmed COVID-19 cases, Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou said yesterday (2nd April): “Taiwan will continue to help our allies with epidemic prevention needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and put into practice the government’s slogan ‘Taiwan Can Help, and Taiwan is Helping.’”
The Taiwanese government says its efforts to assist in the ongoing pandemic, including offering its epidemiological research and vaccine development plans, have been stymied by China.
Taipei has long lobbied for observer status in the World Health Assembly, but so far efforts to join have been turned down due to pressure from Beijing, the Tsai administration claims.
Since Taiwan confirmed its first coronavirus case on 21st January, the island has so far reported 384 positive tests and five deaths.
Schools and businesses remain open, but entry for most foreign passport holders is restricted.
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