Taiwan will donate ten million face masks to countries struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, a move that will likely rile China, which claims Taiwan as a territory and has donated far fewer masks to other countries despite its role in covering up the risk posed by a deadly virus that originated within its borders.
“At the previous stage, we formed a national team, now we need to play an international match and fight the pandemic together with other countries,” said Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen. “At this stage, we will donate 10 million masks.”
According to Taiwan’s foreign ministry, 7 million of the masks will be sent to European Union countries, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. Taipei also plans to send masks to the U.S.
Taiwan has done a remarkable job containing the spread of the virus, with only 322 confirmed cases of coronavirus and five deaths resulting from infection as of Tuesday.
China criticized an agreement between Taiwan and American Institute in Taipei on coronavirus cooperation, calling it “a political plot to pursue independence with the help of the epidemic.”
China shipped only two million masks to be distributed across Europe, while Jack Ma, China’s richest man, donated another two million.
“Today, we’re grateful for China’s support,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said of the mask shipments.
China also supplied rapid test coronavirus test kits to Spain and the Czech Republic, but the majority of the tests turned out to be faulty. Up to 80 percent of the 150,000 portable test kits China delivered to the Czech Republic earlier this month did not produce correct results. Spain, which has the second-highest number of coronavirus fatalities in the world after Italy, found that the rapid coronavirus test kits it purchased from Chinese company Bioeasy only correctly identified 30 percent of virus cases.
In December, local and national officials issued a gag order to labs in Wuhan after scientists there identified a new viral pneumonia, ordering them to halt tests, destroy samples, and conceal the news. A recent collaborative study by scientists based in both China and the U.S. found that 95 percent of infections could have been prevented had China implemented measures to stem the spread just three weeks earlier.
The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report Wednesday that China deliberately provided incomplete public numbers for coronavirus cases and deaths resulting from the infection.