Coronavirus: Taiwan reports record deaths, holds vaccine talks with US

A woman uses her phone while wearing a protective mask following the recent rise in the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections in Taipei, Taiwan, May 23, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

The United States and Taiwan have discussed ways to bring an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, while Taipei has appealed for support in securing vaccine doses from America to help it fight a local outbreak that saw 557 new cases and 19 deaths reported on Friday.

Hsiao Bi-khim, Taipei’s de facto ambassador to the US, spoke to two officials from the US State Department on Thursday during a videoconference organised by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which represents the US’ interests in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

“AIT hosted a meeting between Deputy Assistant Secretary [Jonathan] Fritz, Coordinator for Global COVID Response and Health Security [Gayle] Smith, and @TECRO_USA Representative Hsiao to discuss US and Taiwan efforts to end the pandemic worldwide,” the US State Department’s East Asian Pacific bureau said on Twitter after the talks.

Taiwan reported 557 new cases and 19 deaths reported on Friday. 
PHOTO: Reuters

Hsiao, who heads the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, tweeted that she had had an “in-depth discussion” with the American officials.

She said she had also “expressed the urgent need for the US to support Taiwan’s access to safe and effective vaccines”.

Neither side elaborated on the discussions but Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency quoted a State Department official as saying the US was in close contact with the island to discuss “how to end the outbreak in Taiwan and access vaccines”.

The self-ruled island is in urgent need of Covid-19 shots amid an outbreak that has seen more than 5,500 infections and 45 deaths reported over the past three weeks.

Of the new infections reported by the Central Epidemic Command Centre on Friday, 297 were local, two were imported and 258 were part of the backlog caused by last week’s administrative problems.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.