Taiwan offers to help China deal with COVID surge

FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen makes a speech at a rank promotion ceremony of military members in Taipei, Taiwan, December 26, 2022. REUTERS/Ann Wang

Taiwan on Sunday offered to help China fight against a massive upsurge in COVID-19 cases after Beijing’s abruptly abandoned its restrictive zero-Covid stance, reported CNN.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said the self-ruled democratic island is willing to provide assistance to help China deal with its Covid surge

“Based on humanitarian needs, we are willing to provide necessary assistance (to China) as needed, so that more people can put the pandemic behind and have a healthy and peaceful new year,” Tsai said in her new year’s remarks on Sunday.

However, she did not spell out what forms of assistance Taipei would provide, reported CNN.

China’s U-turn on its Covid policy caught citizens and the medical system off guard, with some pharmacy shelves, swept empty of cold and fever medicines and hospitals scrambling to cope with an unprecedented jump in infections.

China also announced last week that it will drop quarantine requirements for international arrivals and resume outbound travel for Chinese citizens starting January 8 – but it also sparked concern among some overseas governments as China’s Covid cases skyrocket.

Deaths attributed to COVID in China have increased to 9,000 people per day, according to a data firm, reported news.com.au, an Australia-based publication.

The news.com.au report also says that: “British-based research firm Airfinity has doubled the number of people it estimates are dying from COVID in China as the number of infections soar. It comes after Beijing lifted draconian zero-COVID health measures in November that had been in place for years.”

China abandoned its restrictive zero-Covid stance after nearly three years, ending snap lockdowns, contact tracing, mandatory testing and scrapping quarantine that severely limited people from traveling in and out of the country, reported CNN.

But the abrupt exit from zero-Covid could lead to nearly 1 million deaths, according to a new study, with the country facing an unprecedented wave of infections spreading out from its biggest cities into its rural areas.

Countries including the United States, Japan and South Korea moved to impose restrictions, while others such as France and the United Kingdom have made it clear they are ready to welcome Chinese travellers – who had been a major driver of international tourism before the pandemic, reported CNN.

China has not reported any evidence of new variants, but has also been accused of underreporting case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.

For example, China’s National Health Commission says the country has only seen 5,241 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, while data from Johns Hopkins suggests China has had over 16,000 deaths since the pandemic started.

In her new year’s message, Tsai also called on Beijing to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, saying that it is the common responsibility and expectation of the entire region, reported CNN.

“War is not an option to solve problems. Only through dialogue, cooperation, and the common goal of fostering peaceful development and regional stability can we bring security and happiness to more people,” Tsai said.

China’s ruling Communist Party views Taiwan – a democratically governed island of 24 million – as part of its territory, despite having never controlled it. It has long vowed to “reunify” the island with the Chinese mainland, by force if necessary.

Cross-strait tensions have ratcheted up in the past year. (ANI) theprint