Taiwan has withdrawn its request to hold a vote on whether it can regain its observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), citing limited time for other countries to discuss containment of the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu said in a statement on Monday that the decision was made to delay the ballot following requests from “like-minded nations and diplomatic allies.”

World Health Assembly WHA
The World Health Assembly. Photo: Wikicommons.

“Due to Covid-19, the agenda for this year’s WHA has been significantly shortened. Understandably, countries want to use the limited time available to concentrate on ways of containing the pandemic,” he said.

“For this reason, like-minded nations and diplomatic allies have suggested that the proposal be taken up later this year when meetings will be conducted normally, to make sure there will be [a] full and open discussion. After careful deliberation, we have accepted the suggestion from our allies and like-minded nations to wait until the resumed session before further promoting our bid.”

The WHA is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision-making body. It is set to hold its 73rd assembly using video conferencing on Monday, with a special focus on the coronavirus pandemic. First detected in Wuhan, China, Covid-19 has infected more than 4.7 million people and led to more than 315,000 deaths worldwide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Taiwan success

Taiwan has been praised internationally for its early response to the outbreak, despite its exclusion from the World Health Organization. It previously held observer status at the UN’s health agency from 2009 to 2016, before the administration decided to stop sending invitations on the basis that Taipei had violated the “One China” principle.

Hung Hom Tsim Sha Tsui protest China extradition pro-democracy "December 1" Salisbury Garden Road Taiwan Republic of China mask face
File photo: May James/HKFP.

With a population of 23.78 million, the self-governing island-nation has registered fewer than 450 confirmed cases and avoided going into lockdown.

Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945 after Japan, which occupied the island for 50 years, was defeated in the Second World War. The People’s Republic of China claims that Taiwan is one of its provinces and does not recognise it as an independent country.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.