A seventh person has died of COVID-19 in Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced Monday, but no new cases of the disease were reported.
As the spread of COVID-19 appears to be slowing in Taiwan, the CECC is considering easing restrictions over indoor activities, such as allowing gatherings of up to 250 people, according to the Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中).
Such an easing would allow wedding banquets with 30 tables, with eight people per table, and each table 1.5m apart, he said.
President’s party scaled back
The 15th presidential inauguration on Wednesday next week will not have celebratory events, such as a national banquet, due to COVID-19.
They are not inviting guests from abroad, although diplomatic partners and nations friendly to Taiwan can send videos with congratulatory remarks.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is to give her second inaugural speech at the Taipei Guest House, with the number of guests — including officials from foreign representative offices in Taiwan, and former presidents and vice presidents — limited to about 200.
Apple to set up new facility in Taiwan
U.S. consumer electronics giant Apple, one of the largest clients for many Taiwanese tech exporters, is planning to expand its investment in Taiwan by building a new plant in the Longtan section of the Hsinchu Science Park.
A local press report suggests the investment is expected to be about NT$10 billion (US$334 million).
Taiwan has been ranked as the third-best destination for investment in the latest U.S. Business Environment Risk Intelligence (BERI) report.
The only two countries ahead of Taiwan in the rankings were Switzerland and Norway.
Meanwhile, the average monthly take-home wage in March increased 1.56 percent from a year earlier to NT$42,309.
The latest wage data represented a 0.01 percent decrease from a month earlier, which bucked the seasonal trend for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Recall looking grim for Han Kuo-yu
The excellent Taiwan politics blog Frozen Garlic has come out with an analysis of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s recall vote polling.
Here is what he had to say:
“All of them show that around 45-50% of respondents say they will vote.
By about a 5 to 3 margin, people saying they will vote yes outnumber people who say they will vote no. There are some undecided voters, but with such a large margin of yes over no, it seems pretty unlikely that Han can defeat the turnout by mobilizing all his supporters to vote no.
If the first condition is likely to be satisfied, that means that Han’s best chance is for the yes votes to fall below 25% of eligible voters (NOTE: the minimum required for the vote to be eligible).
These polls all show votes for the recall in the mid to high 30s, well above that threshold.”
He goes on to say “In other words, if nothing dramatic changes between now and June 6, I think it is pretty likely that the recall will succeed.”
I agree with his assessment.
While theoretically possible, it is hard to imagine Han doing something that is viewed so positively that it will turn the tide, short of saving a baby from a falling building while simultaneously fending off terrorists with a machine gun.
His best, and likely only, hope is that there is a new mass outbreak of coronavirus, causing the turnout to drop below the required 25% threshold.
Local press speculation continues on who the KMT might run if Han loses.
Two new names were put forward: Former VP and KMT chairman Wu Den-yih, and former Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.
I would be very surprised if Wu ran.
He is a former Kaohsiung mayor, but he is old and out of touch, plus it is a step down from some of the posts he’s had in the past.
Wang is more inscrutable, but similarly I think it would be surprising.
He is from Kaohsiung, but in his later years as a lawmaker he switched from being directly elected to being appointed on the party list.
That suggests he may have had doubts on his electibility in the pan-green leaning city.
Taiwan’s WHO and WHA saga takes more twists and turns
Taiwan’s WHO and WHA inclusion saga has taken yet more twists and turns.
According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), a secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between China and the WHO in 2005 directly affects Taiwan’s participation in the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) and other WHO-related events.
Although the content of the MOU was never made public, Taipei has said it stipulates that the nation has to apply for WHO technical assistance through China and that all exchanges between Taiwan and the WHO must be approved by Beijing.
Neither China nor the WHO Secretariat consulted Taiwan over the MOU before it was signed.
In the MOU, Taiwan is treated as a part of China, referred to as “Taiwan, China.”
“To overcome the hurdle represented by the MOU, we need stronger support from the international community, and so far this year, the atmosphere around the world has been increasingly in favor of Taiwan,” Wu said.
However, despite growing support for Taiwan’s WHA bid, Wu said it would be “extremely difficult” for the nation to secure an invitation to the annual meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body.
“However, we will not stop our efforts just because it is difficult to achieve,” he added.
Meanwhile, WHO principal legal officer Steven Solomon said Monday that “divergent views” among member states of the United Nations prevents Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from extending an invitation to an outside country to participate in meetings of the international body.
“To put it crisply, director-generals only extend invitations when it’s clear that member states support doing so, that director-generals have a mandate, a basis to do so,” Solomon said in a briefing with reporters.
“Today however, the situation is not the same. Instead of clear support there are divergent views among member states and no basis there for — no mandate for the DG to extend an invitation.”
In spite of this, support continues to flow in.
The US Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan legislation that directs “the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization,” and to present a report to the Senate “following any annual meetings of the World Health Assembly at which Taiwan did not obtain observer status.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill for the same purpose in January 2019, and House and Senate members will meet to reconcile differences in their bills and come up with a final version that can be passed and signed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
According to a report in the Canadian Press on Saturday, Japan was one of the countries that called for Taiwan to receive observer status at the WHA during a recent meeting with senior WHO executives.
This has since been confirmed by Japan’s office in Taiwan.
Ambassadors from Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom jointly advocated for Taiwan to be admitted as an observer at the upcoming WHA, the report said, citing a senior Canadian government official.
New Zealand’s foreign minister has said the country has to stand up for itself after China warned its call for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization (WHO) could damage bilateral ties.
“We have got to stand up for ourselves,” Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister, said at a news conference when asked about China’s response to New Zealand’s position on Taiwan. “And true friendship is based on equality. It’s based on the ability in this friendship to nevertheless disagree.”
Peters said he did not think the issue would harm diplomatic ties with China, which is New Zealand’s biggest trading partner.
In the end, the final tally of countries standing behind Taiwan, and the tally of which countries kowtow to China, will be very revealing–showing both Taiwan’s standing and the extent of China’s influence.
Photo courtesy of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s Facebook page