Taiwan has requested the Italian authorities to excuse the island from a three-month flight ban imposed last Sunday on all flights from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to Italy.
The decision of the Italian Health Authorities is intended to halt the spread of coronavirus to Italy, and is based on advice from the WHO that Taiwan should be treated as a part of mainland China.
Such an elementary geographical error by the WHO is not only false, the mistake is also incompetent. Taiwan is an island, and it is demonstrably a self-governing territory, with a separate democratic political system and with its own independent health authorities.
To date, there has been a limited incidence of infection by the coronavirus on Taiwan, with reports of only 11 cases of the disease, and no deaths.
A number of international organisations have already been criticised for excluding Taiwan from the global effort to halt the spread of the disease.
The World Health Organization has declared the virus a public health emergency, but failed to allow Taiwan to attend any international committees or emergency briefings.
Taiwan-based EVA Airways had been due due to start direct service to Milan’s Malpensa airport later this month, and has already sold some 5,000 tickets. The national carrier Taiwan’s China Airlines also operates three flights per week between Taipei and Rome.
An unintended consequence of the WHO’s schoolboy blunder has meant the stranding of more than 500 Taiwanese tourists in Italy who now have to be re-routed through other European cities. Frankly, how can world citizens trust the competence of an international organisation responsible for protecting our global health, if their medical experts cannot even read an atlas?