10 million masks to be donated to U.S., 11 European countries, allies

TAIPEI (CNA) — The 10 million surgical face masks Taiwan pledged to donate to countries seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will be given to the United States, 11 European countries and 15 diplomatic allies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced Wednesday.

Two million will be sent to the U.S.; 1 million to 15 allies, while the remaining 7 million masks will be donated to Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, according to a MOFA press release.

The ministry said it is also considering making similar face mask donations to other countries, namely the 18 countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Australia, covered by the nation’s New Southbound Policy, in the near future.

According to MOFA, Taiwan is also in talks with the U.S. to donate 100,000 surgical face masks per week in exchange for raw materials that can be made into 300,000 medical protective suits as part of a bilateral agreement to fight the pandemic.

The ministry noted that Taiwan has also already ordered millions of face masks and other medical supplies from local providers in many of its 15 diplomatic allies and these supplies are being distributed to those allies.

In addition to the 1 million face masks it has pledged to give to allies, the ministry will also donate 84 infrared thermal imaging cameras and a certain number of infrared forehead thermometers to those countries to assist their fight against the coronavirus.

MOFA said the donations are part of an effort to put into practice the government’s slogan “Taiwan can help,” adding that the nation has received much international attention for its efforts to contain the outbreak and is duty bound to extend a helping hand to those in need as the coronavirus knows no boundaries.

The ministry’s comments came after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced the face mask donations to countries seriously affected by the pandemic earlier Wednesday.

Tsai said her administration decided to make the donations because the country has significantly increased its production of face masks, giving it the ability to provide masks to countries that are experiencing major escalations in the COVID-19 contagion.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced the country’s daily surgical mask output had reached 13 million.

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

Asked to comment on the government’s face mask donations, Habor Hsu (許文憲), chairman of the Taiwan Machine Tool & Accessory Builders’ Association, who was responsible for assembling a team of local machine tool builders to provide extra face mask production lines to increase local surgical mask output, said he fully supports the government’s decision.

Hsu said the team of machine tool builders built an additional 92 new face mask production lines in 40 days so Taiwan now has a daily output of 13 million.

He supports the government’s plan to donate face masks to other countries as he believes it is a good way to lift Taiwan’s profile around the world and to enhance exchanges with countries around the world while maintaining a stable face mask supply domestically.

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