Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday blasted the WHO for treating Taiwan as part of China in the fight against the new coronavirus, adding that some WHO officials live in a “parallel universe.”
Wu blamed a WHO report on the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) for the decisions made by Italy and Vietnam to ban flights to and from Taiwan as part of their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, accusing it of providing “inaccurate information.”
Italy on Friday announced it would suspend all flights from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan from yesterday to April 28, after confirming two cases of the virus earlier that day.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Vietnam on Saturday afternoon announced a similar ban, for 90 days, but reversed the decision a few hours later.
In the WHO report dated Saturday, “Taipei” was included in a list of provinces, regions and cities of China with confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV. In the table of confirmed cases worldwide, it listed China with 11,821 cases, including cases in Hong Kong SAR (13), Macau SAR (7) and Taipei (10).
The way the figures were presented “led to the misconception that Taiwan is part of China and a seriously infected area,” Wu said.
Taiwan is not a member of the UN and is routinely listed as part of China by UN-affiliated organizations.
Wu said that he suspected the WHO report was a key factor in Italy’s decision, because the suspension of flights was made on the recommendation of Italian health authorities and the announcement used the term “Taipei” and other language similar to that found in the WHO report.
Italy’s flight ban against Taiwan has negatively affected thousands of travelers, and they are not likely to get compensation from airlines or from the WHO, the minister said.
“I would like to publicly call upon the WHO to recognize the simple fact that Taiwan is Taiwan and it is not part of the People’s Republic of China,” Wu said.
Healthcare in Taiwan and China are administered by separate authorities, as are their flight information regions, he said.
Those WHO officials who have praised Beijing for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak appear to be living in a “parallel universe,” Wu said.
Vietnam’s no-fly order on Saturday afternoon forced a StarLux Airlines flight to Da Nang to return to the terminal at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport even though it was preparing to take off, while an EVA Airways flight en route to Hanoi was forced to turn around and head back to Taiwan.
The airlines then postponed the departures to 11pm on Saturday.
Although the Vietnamese ban was only in effect for three hours on Saturday, Kaohsiung International Airport data showed that Vietnam Airlines canceled two flights scheduled for yesterday morning, VN581 to Ho Chi Minh City and VN587 to Hanoi.
Flight VN583 to Ho Chi Minh City, which was scheduled to depart at 2:50pm yesterday, was delayed, while flight VN580D from Ho Chi Minh City to Kaohsiung, scheduled to arrive at 3:05pm, was canceled and another flight scheduled to arrive at 12am this morning was delayed.
Additional reporting by Shelley Shan
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