China’s demand that the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, Hubei Province, not be referred to with names like the “Wuhan pneumonia” betrays its lack of confidence in itself, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told lawmakers yesterday.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) asked Su, during a interpellation at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, for his view on China’s attempts to redeem its national image in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These included China’s efforts to “bleach” its image, including having WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus publicly praise its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and thanking it for buying time for the global community, Tsai said.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
Su said the term “Wuhan pneumonia” was used because the outbreak began in Wuhan, just as the way other diseases have become known by area names, such as German measles, Japanese encephalitis and athlete’s foot (known in Taiwan as “Hong Kong foot”).
China has gone to great lengths to demand acclaim for having contained the new virus, but such manipulations always backfire when overdone, Su said.
Given its history with China, Taiwan knew how important it was to be cautious when it comes to viral outbreaks and it successfully deployed early preventive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, Su said.
Separately yesterday, Control Yuan member Peter Chang (張武修), a public health specialist who is director-general of the Global Taiwan Medical Alliance, told a radio interviewer that the WHO has become a “useless” international organization because it is controlled by China.
Underestimating the seriousness of COVID-19, Tedros on Jan. 23 refused to declare an international public health emergency, but as the number of confirmed cases and deaths rose significantly over the next five days, Canadian netizens launched a petition demanding Tedros’ resignation, Chang said.
The petition organizers hope to get 1 million signatures and have collected more than half of their target so far, he said.
Had China not silenced whistleblower Li Wenliang (李文亮) — one of the doctors who reported COVID-19 and tried to warn the Chinese government about it — the WHO could have responded earlier, Chang said.
The WHO did a great job during the SARS epidemic, because it paid attention to Carlo Urbani, an Italian doctor who gave early warnings of threat posed by the outbreak, bringing it under control within just six months, Chang said.
China has declared Wuhan a safe place, without additional COVID-19 inspections, but that is because tests are no longer being conducted in the city, he said, adding that not following proper public health standards is dangerous.
From a scientific perspective, figures about the number of new COVID-19 cases in Wuhan must be fabricated, as it is impossible that the numbers are dropping as quickly as China claims they are, he said.
Although Taiwan hopes to obtain information from the WHO, the “China-controlled” organization has almost no function at this point, he said.
Taiwan must rely on itself instead, he said.
Many European countries have bought into Beijing’s propaganda and been misled into thinking that China has changed, but it has not and much of its data remains unreliable, he added.
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