Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday accused the central government of offering no help in containing a COVID-19 outbreak at a wholesale market in the city — comments that Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) later said might have been “a little unkind” if directed at an individual.
After 41 COVID-19 cases were identified on July 2 at Huannan Market in Wanhua District (萬華), the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and the Taipei City Government formed a joint command mission to bring the situation under control.
The command mission, which was led by Hospital and Social Welfare Organizations Administration Commission Director Victor Wang (王必勝), was disbanded on July 10 after the outbreak was contained.
Photo: Screen grab from Youtube
Asked by media personality Frances Huang (黃光芹) in a YouTube interview yesterday why he did not respond to Chen’s offer to “take charge” until the Huannan Market outbreak, Ko said: “Take charge? How did they take charge? Everything was done by us.”
Every time the command mission convened, CECC officials “just came to take a look and talk,” but every order was carried out by the city government, Ko said.
“Go ask Victor Wang what contributions he made,” Ko responded when pressed to say whether the central government had any real utility.
Asked about the matter at yesterday’s CECC news conference, Chen, who heads the center, said that the central and local governments are partners in fighting COVID-19.
“If said about an individual, these comments would be a little unkind,” he said. “Everyone should be helping each other.”
Later yesterday, Wang wrote on Facebook that he “never thought about” his own contributions to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have been to many places to help handle outbreaks and have met many different groups,” he said. “While on duty, only two things are on my mind: quickly getting the outbreak under control and making sure it does not happen again.”
Wang said that he had inadvertently become good friends with the people he works with every day tracking and managing the pandemic.
He thanked those with whom he worked closely in Taipei, including Deputy Taipei Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), as well as those working quietly behind the scenes.
Wang also shared three photographs taken after a command mission meeting, showing Centers for Disease Control officials checking registration lists of vendors at Huannan Market.
“These doctors are very professional and have given their all to the long process of fighting the pandemic,” he said. “They are national treasures.”
Meanwhile, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) said that the regular beginning of the school year in September would depend on case counts and vaccination rates.
Ko earlier said that Taipei expects to start the new school year as scheduled.
New Taipei City would work toward reopening schools as scheduled, but it depends on the pandemic, Hou said.
As for preschools and after-school centers, Hou said that discussions are under way about reopening the facilities on Monday next week under the condition that they implement appropriate disease prevention measures.
Asked about Ko’s call on the government to purchase enough vaccines to administer a third dose to residents, Hou said that he had already asked the government to do so a few weeks ago.
Vaccines are a question for science, not politics, Hou said, adding that he hopes the Medigen COVID-19 vaccine would be certified according to transparent, scientific standards.
It is up to experts to decide, “not me or anyone else,” he added.
Additional reporting by Weng Yu-huang
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