Taiwan vague on medical capacity as public debates evacuation plans

A plane lands in Taoyuan International Airport on Feb. 4, 2020. (CNA)
A plane lands in Taoyuan International Airport on Feb. 4, 2020. (CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) remained vague on Monday on exactly how many potential patients Taiwan can take care of in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

According to a list obtained by The China Post, there is at least 980 people, including Taiwanese nationals and their Chinese spouses, relatives by marriage, waiting to be airlifted out of the virus-ridden area.

While negotiations are still deadlocked because authorities failed to agree on details of the evacuation plans, questions regarding Taiwan’s medical capacity have remained unanswered.

Last week, CECC Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that should there be thousands of evacuees, the country “is not yet able to accommodate them all.”

When pressed on Monday for the exact number of people Taiwan can care for right now, Chen said: “our quarantine rooms will increase according to the situation of the epidemic.”

Medical professionals nationwide, however, are pressing the government to review Taiwan’s medical capacity before bringing back more evacuees.

A petition asking the government not to agree to unlimited acceptance garnered signatures from more than 110,000 medical professionals, which is almost one-third of the total number of medical staff in Taiwan.

So far, more than 210,000 people have signed a similar petition open to the general public.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC, 陸委會), the agency in charge of the negotiations with China, submitted a list of 200 names which it considers a priority on the next flight out, including a kid with Haemophilia, a rare blood disorder, who is in urgent need of medical supplies, its media relations person told The China Post last week.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told reporters last Friday (Feb. 7) that the country is firm on two principles when discussing future evacuation plans with China: prioritize at-risk groups and ensure thorough epidemic prevention measures.

The discussion came after nationals applauded the first flight from Wuhan, China arrived in Taiwan on Feb. 4, only to find out that many on board were not at-risk groups, some of them were in fact Chinese nationals who are family members of Taiwanese nationals, and that one of the passengers had contracted the novel coronavirus.