COVID-19 has affected every corner of the globe, clearly showing the importance of international cooperation in responding to the pandemic. As Indo-Pacific democracies, Australia and Taiwan share an interest in an open, inclusive, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and world that are able to bounce back from shocks like COVID-19.
In the face of the disease, Australia has achieved world-leading health outcomes, with fewer infections, hospitalizations and deaths than most other countries, and it has administered nearly 3 million vaccine doses.
Australia is also helping our Indo-Pacific partners meet the challenges of COVID-19: through official development assistance of nearly A$1.5 billion (US$1.16 billion) to the Pacific region, and more than A$1 billion to Southeast Asia; through a A$100 million contribution to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’s effort to deliver 1 billion vaccine doses to the region; and by sharing Australia’s domestically manufactured vaccines.
Australia and Taiwan have cooperated closely during the pandemic, providing each other with vital protective equipment. They have shared lessons on their respective approaches, including through the Global Cooperation and Training Framework. They also continue to deepen important links in biotechnology and pharmaceutical development, with more than 30 clinical trials being conducted by Taiwanese firms in Australia.
Taiwan is in the midst of a difficult time, facing its first significant threat from “community transmission.” Nonetheless, Taiwan continues to stand out across the world for its effective response to the pandemic. The efforts of the government and Taiwanese are to be applauded. Its economy is still booming, and Taiwan is helping the world, providing much needed personal protective equipment, and sharing its advice and expertise.
Taiwan’s success has been driven by its early, coordinated national response that included early screening of arriving passengers, strictly monitoring quarantine arrangements, early and widespread use of masks, and effective contact tracing — in short, its scientific and highly effective public health management approach. The world has much to learn from Taiwan.
The people of Australia and Taiwan continue to be among the world’s most fortunate in terms of public health and economic outcomes in the face of COVID-19.
However, everyone around the world has a stake in ensuring an effective global health system. As the leading authority within the international system, the WHO is the cornerstone of an effective rules-based international order for health. It plays a particularly important role in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia wants to see a WHO that is robust, with an enhanced ability to respond to pandemics.
The WHO should maintain close working relationships with all health authorities. As COVID-19 has demonstrated so clearly, Taiwan has valuable expertise to share with the world. This is why Australia maintains our long-standing support for Taiwan’s meaningful engagement in the WHO’s work, and its participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly.
The economic and health consequences of COVID-19 have been severe, and there is a long road to recovery ahead. We must remain vigilant and work closely together. Only through full and inclusive global cooperation can we expect to see a full and inclusive global recovery.
Jenny Bloomfield is the Australian Representative to Taiwan.
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