Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has announced plans to donate 10 million masks to countries that have been most severely impacted by the coronavirus.
On the heels of an estimated $35 billion stimulus package intended to bolster the island nation's economy, Taiwan pledges to donate masks and medical supplies to the rest of the world as part of its global "Taiwan can help" campaign.
"We want everyone to not only see that ‘Taiwan can help,’ but that ‘Taiwan is helping,’" Tsai said at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Despite being one of the countries expected to be hardest hit by COVID-19, Taiwan as of Wednesday had a total of only 329 cases and five deaths.
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While Taiwan appears to have the virus under control, Tsai said that each country affects all others.
"We cannot stop the spread of COVID-19 simply by preventing an outbreak within Taiwan. All members of the international community must pool their capabilities and work together to overcome this challenge," she said.
With the ability to produce up to 13 million face masks a day, Taiwan is donating 7 million masks to Europe, including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and the U.K., and an additional 2 million masks to the U.S., with the rest going to other smaller countries who have diplomatic ties with the island, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Over the past months we have seen countless acts of bravery and sacrifice from medical workers from around the world. It is our duty as global citizens to give them our full support," Tsai said in English, adding that Taiwan would also be donating its surplus medical supplies to those "on the front lines who are working around the clock to save lives."
Taiwan's mask donation announcement comes as the White House coronavirus task force is debating whether to reverse the current U.S. recommendation against wearing masks in public, an about-face that President Donald Trump informally endorsed at his Wednesday evening press conference.
Taiwan, meanwhile, is seeking to strengthen its position in the international medical community, having been largely excluded from involvement with the World Health Organization due to pressure from China.
Earlier last month, Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s most prominent research institution, held a video conference with the U.S., EU, Czech Republic and Canada to discuss the research and development of COVID-19 test kits, vaccines and reagents.
In addition to working with charities and nongovernmental organizations, Taiwan is also slated to start collaborating with the Czech Republic on the production of test kits and vaccines and the exchange of medical supplies and equipment. Taiwan previously received alcohol for making hand sanitizer from Australia in exchange for fabric used for masks.
"Taiwan again urges WHO to comprehensively include it in related meetings, mechanisms and activities, so that Taiwan can work hand in hand with the world to overcome this grave challenge," Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. "Taiwan will take concrete actions to prove to the international community that the world needs Taiwan and that Taiwan will not be absent."
What to know about the coronavirus:
- How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
- What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
- Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map