Beijing repeats offer of Covid-19 vaccines as Taiwan reports 287 new cases

·3 min read

Beijing has repeated an offer to vaccinate people from Taiwan against Covid-19, as the coronavirus continues to spread on the island.

The Taiwan Affairs Office, Beijing’s main body for cross-strait affairs, on Friday said that Taiwanese who fly to mainland China can voluntarily receive Covid-19 shots as long as they meet vaccination requirements and follow outbreak control measures.

“[We] urge the authorities to earnestly listen to the voices of the people on the island and remove the man-made obstacles for mainland vaccines to enter Taiwan as soon as possible, so that Taiwan compatriots can get safe and effective mainland vaccines,” Ma Xiaoguang, the office’s spokesman, was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua.

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Beijing views the self-ruled island as part of its territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. It last month offered to send vaccines and pandemic specialists to Taiwan, which did not take up the offer.

Ma said that an estimated 62,000 Taiwanese people had been vaccinated on the mainland as of May 31, although many Taiwanese are mainland residents, with 158,000 registering in the mainland’s latest census, published last month. The Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday that more than 200,000 foreign nationals had been vaccinated in China.

The offer to Taiwan came as the island’s Central Epidemic Command Centre reported 287 new infections – one imported and the rest local – and 24 new deaths.

“The numbers of cases dropped compared with last week,” Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said. “But Covid-19 is still here and we need to stay vigilant.”

When asked about the status of Taiwanese wishing to travel to the mainland for jabs, Chen said there was no quarantine-free arrangement for vaccinated Taiwan residents on their return, adding that mainland vaccines had not received emergency-use approval in Taiwan.

Coronavirus: critics ask why Taiwan’s death rate is higher than the global pandemic average

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told a local radio station on Friday that “Covid-19 has been controlled to a certain degree, unlike in some countries that experienced large-scale spread”.

On the tight vaccine supply this month, she said production plants for British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Thailand and India, which were supplying Taiwan, had prioritised vaccines for domestic use to tackle those countries’ infections.

Taiwan last Friday received 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine that were donated by Japan. It is expecting the arrival of an additional 750,000 doses from the United States.

The island had previously received 870,000 vaccine doses – 720,000 from AstraZeneca and 150,000 from US-based Moderna. It has signed deals to buy 10 million doses from AstraZeneca, 5 million from Moderna and more than 4.7 million doses via the Covax Facility, which is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It has also signed deals with Taiwan’s Medigen Vaccine Biologics and United Biomedical for 5 million doses apiece, and made a verbal agreement to buy a further 5 million from each – a decision that some have criticised because the vaccines are still undergoing clinical trials.

The WHO has approved two mainland vaccines, developed by state-owned Sinopharm and Sinovac. They are among the seven mainland vaccines used in a vaccination drive that had administrated about 825 million doses as of Thursday.

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