“I think that the virus came out from a lab in Wuhan,” the Ambassador of Taiwan to the EU Harry Tseng (pic on the left) said in an exclusive interview with The European Post. “The security rules in China’s labs are not adequate and a virologist might have got infected, accidentally bringing the virus outside the lab. As time goes by, the truth will come out and China will have to take its responsibilities,” he said.
A study published in February 2020 by two Chinese researchers – Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao from Guangzhou’s South China University of Technology – suggested that “the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.” Italian television TgCom24 also reported on this theory about the origin of the virus as well as leading politicians overseas such as US Republican senators Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz who openly spoke about this possibility.
Theories about the origin of the virus have been circulated in the media but the government of Taiwan also believes that it is highly probable that the virus escaped from Whuan lab. “China wanted to diverge the attention from the Wuhan virology lab to the nearby food market, trying to muddy the waters. The Communist Party of China didn’t want people to talk about how the virus originated and propagated. They have very strong restrictions on this topic,” the head of the Taipei Representative Office said.
China influence in Europe
Regarding the growing influence of China in Europe, ambassador Tseng warned European countries that the help of China towards European nations hit by the COVID-19 disease is not for free and Beijing will ask for something in return. “Taiwan donated a total of seven million face masks to the EU, including severely affected EU member states (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain), the United Kingdom and Switzerland,” said the ambassador, highlighting that other countries didn’t donate but sold those masks. “We are very happy if China is moved from humanitarian reasons but as far as I know, China sold many of its face masks to the countries in need,” he added.
Thousands of face mask were also donated from Taiwan to the Holy See, the only country in Europe that officially recognise Taipei government. The fact that the Vatican didn’t thank publicly rose polemics with U.S.-based Cardinal Raymond Burke who said: “The Holy See made a point to praise the People’s Republic of China for sending masks and medical equipment to the Vatican, while it has not acknowledged in any public way the generous help received from Taiwan. “Something is badly wrong’’ with China seemingly enjoying “a place of privilege with the Vatican,” Cardinal Burke said.
Reuters and the New York Times suggested that China sought to block an EU official report alleging that Beijing was spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Chinese are already threatening with reactions if the report comes out,” wrote one EU official last week, the NYT reported. But the EU Foreign Affairs spokesperson straightaway refused any inferences from Beijing:
How Taiwan overcomes the pandemic
Unlike almost every country in the world, Taiwan has weathered the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic admirably well. The island is only 80 miles off the coast of mainland China and very near to where the virus originated. It also has close air connections, plus, with many daily flights to and from Wuhan. But Taiwan has only 429 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and only six people have died from it as of April 2020.
“Already on the 31st December 2019, Taiwan sent an email to the WHO describing what we heard was happening in China and asking to send us more information to tackle a possible epidemic. There was NO reply. So we had to act on our own: firstly, the Taiwanese government immediately alerted the people of an ‘unknown pneumonia’ in China in order for them to take all precautions. Secondly, health officers started to control the health of all the passengers coming from the Wuhan area,” Ambassador Tseng said during a webinar organised by Green MEPs Jutta Paulus and Reinhard Bütikofer.
“As the first cases were recorded in the island of Taiwan, we immediately set up an emergency epidemic centre and we started a wide contact tracing activity. This strategy permitted to test the suspected cases and, avoiding a mass testing, we managed to control the virus. We believe that if China would have also started the contact tracing at the beginning of January, this would have stopped the spread of the virus,” he finally noted.
Taiwan developed a rapid screening reagent put into trial production. It is a key reagent for a rapid screening test for the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus and will be able to provide test results within just 15 minutes. Should trial production be positive, it would be available for possible mass production.