Taiwan to donate 10 million masks to virus-affected countries

President Tsai Ing-wen (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan will donate 10 million face masks to countries that are being seriously affected by the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Wednesday.

In a speech delivered at the Presidential Office, Tsai said Taiwan has increased its production of face masks, giving the country the ability to provide masks to countries that are experiencing major escalations in the COVID-19 contagion.

On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs announced Taiwan’s daily surgical mask output has hit 13 million.

The current daily output is more than four times the amount that Taiwan was capable of producing in early February, when it produced an average of 3.2 million surgical masks per day.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) indicated that diplomatic allies, the United States and European countries would be among those who would get the masks, but he did not say when the masks would be donated.

In her speech, which aimed to raise awareness of the spread of COVID-19 ahead of the upcoming long weekend to observe the Tomb Sweeping Festival, Tsai said Taiwan has made considerable efforts to bring the contagion under control and that achievement has been recognized globally.

Due to its efforts to boost face mask production, Tsai said Taiwan has transformed itself from an importer of masks into the second largest surgical mask producer in the world, and is now able to provide enough for domestic use, adding that the government aims to increase daily production still further to 15 million units.

Tsai said Taiwan will work with the global community by providing not only face masks but also drugs and related medical technology.

In the future, Tsai said, Taiwan will provide more masks to those countries seriously affected by COVID-19 based on the progress of production.

When asked by the press whether Taiwan will donate face masks and provide medical assistance to China, where the COVID-19 contagion began at the end of December, Tsai said Taiwan will provide aid to any country that needs help as long as Taiwan is able to help.

As an indispensable part of the global anti-epidemic efforts, Tsai said, Taiwan is willing to work with other countries to get through the difficult times ahead.

In addition to face masks, Tsai said, Taiwan has also devoted itself to developing a rapid diagnostic test, vaccines and drugs to fight the COVID-19 contagion, areas in which many countries have expressed a willingness to work with Taiwan.

According to Tsai, Taiwan is working with the U.S. the European Union and Czech Republic to map out strategies to combat the disease, while Taiwan is currently conducting anti-epidemic material swaps with Australia and the U.S.

For example, the MOEA announced on Monday that Australia has agreed to provide 1 million liters of edible alcohol to be turned into 4.22 million 300 milliliter bottles of 75 percent-alcohol hand sanitizer.

In return, Taiwan will provide Australia with 3 metric tons of non-woven fabric, the key raw material used in surgical masks, when production capacity has stabilized, the MOEA said.

In addition, Taipei and Washington said on March 18 that the two sides will form a partnership on the research and development of rapid tests as well as the research and production of vaccines and medicines.

Tsai said as clinical trials in some countries point to a possible cure from quinine for patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms, Taiwan’s government has told local pharmaceutical firms to raise quinine production in a bid to provide medical support to needy countries.