As the nation's SARS outbreak was estimated to be effectively brought under control in less than seven weeks, the Presidential Office yesterday blasted China for blocking Taiwan from gaining accession to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"China keeps saying that Taiwan's health is under its care," said deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮). "Well, that is a shameless lie."
"It's as much a lie as its claim that there was no SARS problem in Beijing in early April," Wu said.
Wu called on the international community to support Taiwan's bid to join the WHO as an observer, so that the nation could get access to assistance from the international body, especially in a time of need.
"The fact is that the WHO cannot do without Taiwan and Taiwan cannot do without the WHO," he said.
Wu made the remarks yesterday morning during a bimonthly meeting with about 20 foreign correspondents at the Presidential Office to brief them on the development of the nation's SARS outbreak and the implementation of prevention initiatives.
Also present were Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), head of the SARS prevention command center under the SARS response committee and Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), an epidemiologist and member of the SARS-research task force under the same committee.
According to Lee, the nation's SARS outbreak should be restrained in less than seven weeks if the nation does not see any mass transmissions in medical institutions and if the public cooperates with the government's prevention measures.
Lee also called on the WHO to provide Taiwan with more updated and timely SARS-related information to help the nation better battle the epidemic.
"Since we're not a member of the international body, the WHO hasn't provided us with any updated information, forcing us to obtain the information from their global Web site," Lee said. "We desperately need its help as well as that from the US and other countries."
Wu told the foreign press that although the government appreciates the WHO's dispatch of two medical experts to help it monitor the outbreak, the assistance seems insufficient.
"They're under clear instructions from WHO headquarters not to engage in direct contact with our officials, not to make any public statements or to do many other things that are deemed essential to the containment of the outbreak," Wu said.
While the WHO has dispatched its Global Outbreak Alert Response Network to Vietnam and Hong Kong to help the two countries combat the outbreak, Wu said the nation would like the international body to offer such assistance.
"But we couldn't possibly get it because we're excluded from the international body," he said.
Presidential Office Spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday also dismissed media speculation that Lee's appointment as the chief commander of the SARS prevention command center has a lot to do with President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) displeasure with Department of Health Director-General Twu Shiing-jer's (涂醒哲) performance.
"The arrangement is made to strengthen the functions of the response mechanism," Huang said.