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Taiwan steps up to help fill protective mask void with offer to DONATE 100,000 per week to U.S. amid coronavirus outbreak

The Taiwanese government has announced it will begin manufacturing and shipping up to 100,000 hospital protective face masks to the United States beginning immediately.

The news is going to be welcomed especially by American medical personnel who are struggling to find enough of them just to be able to function and do their jobs safely, thanks to massive shortages of PPE — personal protective equipment — like masks, latex gloves and gowns that normally come from China.

“We have enough capacity to cooperate with the U.S.,” an official at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s de facto embassy to the United States, told the Washington Examiner. 

Granted, the decision wasn’t without some calculation. Taiwan remains essentially isolated, diplomatically, from most of the world because countries don’t want to upset China, which considers the island democracy just a ‘renegade province’ and has threatened to invade if Taipei should ever formally declare independence.

That said, the U.S. is Taiwan’s most important ally, which has been strengthened under President Donald Trump. So clearly, the decision to ramp up mask production also involves geopolitics. 

As the Washington Examiner notes: 

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ratcheted up pressure on the island government and succeeded in inducing other nations to cut diplomatic ties with Taipei, but Taiwanese officials now are positioned to expand their cooperation with Western powers — not only by providing hospital masks, but also as a source of reliable information on the new contagion.

And of course, the offer by Taiwan comes as new tensions between Washington and Beijing arise over the outbreak of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). President Trump, to the consternation of the pro-Beijing U.S. media, routinely refers to the disease as the “China virus,” which angers the Communist government. But it’s true, nonetheless, since that’s where the disease originated.

In any event, Taiwan’s donations will go a long way towards addressing major shortfalls in masks that have led federal officials to recommend healthcare workers “use homemade masks (e.g. bandana, scarf)” if they run short or completely out of medical-grade masks due to the pandemic.

Masks are in short supply because of China

It’s just one part of a wider plan “to share best practices and cooperate on a range of activities,” said a joint statement released Wednesday by the Taiwanese mission in D.C. and the American Institute in Taiwan.

Meantime, the U.S. “will be reserving 300,000 hazmat suits for Taiwan in the event that it requires them” in exchange for the masks, local reports stated. The island government has been limiting masks since early February while placing orders for factories to ramp up production to more than 8 million per day. (Related: Advanced knowledge? CDC started hiring QUARANTINE program managers last November to cover quarantine centers in Texas, California, New York, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts and more.)

“Seeing how the production rate has increased, the government will also be adjusting the rationing system accordingly,” Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said in early March.

Masks are in extremely short supply globally because China — where the vast majority of them are made — has restricted their export in order to save them for domestic use. That has left countries like the U.S. scrambling to find replacements, even as the virus just begins to spread.

In order to fix the problem both short- and long-term, President Trump on Tuesday invoked the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law that gives him authority to instruct U.S. manufacturers to bolster the output of certain products (like PPE) ahead of others to fill needs during a national emergency.

“We will exchange the research and the production about the vaccines and the medicines,” the TECRO official said. “We want to be a responsible member in the international community, and now if Taiwan has capacity and ability, we want to help countries and the world.”

In the future, we expect a large portion of these items to be made in the USA so we don’t have to go through this again the next time a strange, deadly new virus breaks out in China.

Sources include:

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