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Closing The Gap: The Urgent Need For Taiwan's Inclusion In Global Disease Prevention

While member countries, including New Zealand, continue their consideration and discussions about the WHO Pandemic Agreement and revisions to the International Health Regulations aimed at addressing future threats of Disease X, it's crucial not to overlook ongoing threats from current infectious diseases. Concerns such as potential transmission of bird flu to humans and recent measles alerts in March underscore the urgent need for inclusive stakeholder involvement to prevent outbreaks and facilitate information sharing. Excluding any geographical stakeholders presents a significant obstacle to achieving the goal of establishing more comprehensive global health systems during the upcoming 77th World Health Assembly (WHA), scheduled from May 27th to June 6th.

Taiwan was the first country to identify China’s coronavirus epidemic risks in 2019 and alerted WHO. The island nation quickly adopted its protection and successfully garnered public trust. Taiwan also donated millions of medical equipment, masks and relief supplies to countries in need.

With world-class biotechnology, cutting-edge semiconductor industries, advanced medical treatments and valuable experiences to offer, an excluded Taiwan is a great loss for WHO and global health security system.

Yearly, around 28 million Taiwanese travelled overseas, while 30 million foreigners visited Taiwan, a total of 58 million passengers. There are 86 airlines operating in Taiwan, including Air NZ with 3 weekly direct flights Auckland-Taipei. From NZ and Australia alone, over 580,000 individuals travelled or transited through Taiwan.

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Excluding Taiwan due to political considerations not only jeopardizes the rights of the Taiwanese, but also leaves a vacuum in global health response. Inviting Taiwan into WHO is a practical need; The COVID-19 experience remains a vivid testimony that diseases know no boundaries; less political interference would have saved innumerable lives. As WHO itself cautioned against the upcoming Disease X pandemic, the answer to the organization’s call would be: leaving no one behind.

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