Taiwan warned the WHO and China about possible human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus at the end of last year, but the global health body did not make it public, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
Department of International Organizations Director-General Bob Chen (陳龍錦) made the remark at a news briefing in Taipei, when asked about statements made by US Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
“Dec. 31— that’s the same day Taiwan first tried to warn WHO of human-human transmission. Chinese authorities meanwhile silenced doctors and refused to admit human-human transmission until Jan. 20, with catastrophic consequences,” Ortagus wrote on Twitter yesterday.
Photo: Lu Yi-hsuan, Taipei Times
Her tweet was in response to a post by Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩), who wrote that the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission had issued a notice about the virus on Dec. 31 last year.
The commission’s notice reported 27 cases, including seven severe ones, in Wuhan, but said that no obvious transmission among people had been observed.
The Centers for Disease Control on Dec. 31 last year did ask China and the WHO’s International Health Regulations contact for information about the abnormal outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan, while the ministry’s representative office in Geneva, Switzerland, also contacted the WHO secretariat, Chen said.
On the same day, the centers started implementing onboard inspections on direct flights from Wuhan landing in Taiwan, he said.
The WHO later replied that it received the message and would transfer it to other experts, but did not make it public, he said.
There are e-mail records of the communication between the centers and the WHO, he added.
Taiwan’s disease prevention strategy was predicated on the concept that the virus could be transmitted among people, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said.
The nation thanks the US and other like-minded nations for their support, and would work with the global community to contain the virus, she said.
Meanwhile, the WHO secretariat is still evaluating whether to convene the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly from May 17 to 21, turn it into a virtual meeting or postpone it until autumn, Chen said.
Although it is almost impossible for WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan to join the assembly as an observer, the ministry would continue to push for Taiwan’s participation in the meeting, he said.
In other developments, British Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab has advised all Britons who are usually based in the UK to return home soon, given the rapidly changing situation regarding travel restrictions and flights, the British Office Taipei said in a statement.
The advice does not apply to Britons who are residents in Taiwan.
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