Taiwan confirmed no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, keeping the total at 440.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has partnered with Facebook on a service that is aimed at providing timely and reliable information on COVID-19.
A rapid antibody test kit for COVID-19 developed by a local biomedical company that can deliver results in just 10 minutes has passed clinical trials and is ready for mass production.
The method of testing is similar to that of a pregnancy test, which uses two red lines to indicate results.
The test boasts 100 percent sensitivity and 95 percent specificity, according to the company.
Exports are down, again
According to the Ministry of Finance, Taiwan’s exports for April stood at US$25.24 billion, down 1.3 percent from a year earlier, following a year-on-year decline of 0.6 percent in March.
On a month-on-month basis, the country’s outbound sales also dropped 10.7 percent, according to the data.
In April, Taiwan’s imports fell 9.9 percent from a year earlier to US$22.97 billion, with a trade surplus of US$2.27 billion, down US$440 million from a year earlier.
The govt keeps the cash spigots open
The Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) has approved 756 of 1,224 applications from companies seeking government subsidies due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it said.
“Applications are still pouring in and we are receiving an average of 100 applications per day,” said the IDB Deputy Director-General.
Under the program, companies with a 50 percent annual decline in sales can receive wage subsidies of up to 40 percent per employee, to a maximum of NT$20,000 (US$667.78), as well as a one-time injection of working capital calculated based on NT$10,000 per employee.
In related news, the Legislative Yuan has given final approval to a NT$150 billion (US$5.02 billion) special budget to finance measures to support the economy.
The funding will go to subsidies for payroll and operating expenses and utilities at affected companies, credit guarantees and interest subsidies, grants for lower income households, and programs to spur consumer spending.
Meanwhile, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday apologized and promised improvements after chaotic scenes outside local government offices on Wednesday as uninsured workers waited in long lines to apply for NT$10,000 grants.
Su later told a news conference that the chaos occurred after he did not make his instructions clear enough when he announced the grants on Monday, which led to competition among applicants.
“The government is a cohesive entity. As the leader of the team, I must assume full responsibility for the issue and reflect on my actions,” he said.
The policy was also not properly relayed to front-line civil servants, whose workload spiked due to the applications, he said, expressing his apologies and gratitude to them.
Su to stay
In spite of Su’s screwup, he got some good news on Friday.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced Friday that incumbent Premier Su will continue to lead the Cabinet after the inaugural ceremony for her second term on May 20.
“Over the past year, Premier Su has had many outstanding achievements. I hereby announce that I have invited him to stay on as premier so we can continue fighting for Taiwan together,” Tsai said at a press conference.
Tsai government on a high
According to a poll by pan-green leaning Taiwan Brain Trust (TBT), the Tsai administration is on a high.
The approval ratings of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) have risen to 74.5 percent and 68.9 percent, respectively.
That is Tsai’s best since 2016, and Su’s rating is surprisingly high for a premier who has been in office as long as he has.
Traditionally, the premier is often the punching bag of the administration, taking hits on behalf of the government, which is why usually presidents go through several.
They were both beat out by Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who got 93.4 percent approval.
Meanwhile, 40.5 percent of respondents have indicated their support for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the party’s highest rating since 2018.
KMT’s troubles mount
The KMT’s problems have continued to mount.
The same poll showed that the number of Taiwanese who identify with the KMT has dropped to 9.2 percent, the lowest the party has ever seen.
Taking over as the country’s second most popular political party is the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), led by Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), with 11.5 percent support.
The New Power Party (NPP) and the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP) have also gained ground.
The NPP received 6.9 percent in support and the TSP received 4.3 percent.
So not only has the KMT fallen behind the TPP, they are only 2.3 percent higher than the NPP.
Also notable is that the combined total of NPP and TSP–both of whom support declaring a Republic of Taiwan–is 11.2 percent.
Which is also higher than the pro-China unification KMT.
Han Kuo-yu under pressure
The Taiwan Supreme Administrative Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) to halt the planned recall vote against him.
This is his second defeat, the administrative high court on April 17 rejected the mayor’s request to suspend the recall election.
KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang has set up a committee to fight back against the recall.
He said that the party would back it with all their strength.
Meanwhile, We Care Kaohsiung, the organization behind the recall campaign, has started using digitally projected ads, using the side of a building as the canvas.
The city has been tearing down their physical billboards, and this is a strategy to get around that.
At least at night.
Paraguayan pressure to cut ties
According to the latest issue of Americas Quarterly, the Paraguayan Senate took a vote on April 17 in a virtual session on whether to urge the president to change diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.
Confirming the report, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said seven Paraguayan senators associated with the left-leaning party caucus “Frente Guazú” petitioned on March 30 to establish formal ties with Beijing in exchange for medical supplies from China and direct access to China’s market.
The 45-seat Paraguayan Senate voted against the proposal, 25-16, on April 17, with four absent.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that in the nations only South American diplomatic partner, shifting formal ties to Beijing is opposed by public opinion in the country.
It is unclear how they came to that assessment.
Canada’s foreign minister snubs Taiwan, twice
Canada’s foreign minister has snubbed Taiwan, twice.
When China donated medical supplies to help Canada in battling the coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne turned to Twitter to thank the country directly.
But after the nation of Taiwan did the same, Champagne did not post about the donation on his Twitter account and when pressed to thank the nation directly on Thursday, would not say its name.
Conservative MP Ed Fast asked “Will the minister now do the right thing and on behalf of Canadians, recognize the generosity of Taiwan and thank its government for that timely donation?”
Champagne said lots of countries have done the same thing, and would not name Taiwan.
Fast tried the question again, and Champagne repeated that he is grateful to all countries that have donated medical supplies to Canada, and again did not mention Taiwan by name.
However, the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei did post a thank you message on the office’s Facebook account after the announcement of the mask shipment.
Photo of François-Philippe Champagne courtesy of his Facebook page