If Covid-19 had first emerged in Taiwan, the United States or any other open society, it “would have gone very differently,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a teleconference from Taipei on Wednesday.
“It would have been reported to public health authorities who would have shared that information with the public and with medical professionals, even more important, it would have been reported in a timely, accurate and transparent manner, under the International Health Regulations, under which Taiwan has been a model of compliance on information sharing,” Azar said.
Azar met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung and members of the Taiwan CDC to discuss Covid-19 during his three-day trip to the self-ruled island, the highest-level visit by a US cabinet official in four decades.
“My visit to Taiwan is a recognition of its success in combating Covid-19, and a testament to our shared beliefs that open democratic societies are best equipped to combat infectious disease threats like Covid-19,” Azar said.
Criticizing China: In contrast to his praise for Taiwan, Azar was highly critical of the way China handled the initial outbreak.
“China could have, and should have, disclosed more information more transparently and more cooperatively regarding Covid-19,” Azar said. “They should have disclosed ... the rapid human to human transmission of the disease that they knew about, they should have disclosed the asymptomatic carriage and transmission of the disease.”
Azar also accused China of a month-and-a-half delay in allowing outside experts into the country to learn more about the disease, and pressuring the World Health Organization to stop other countries from establishing border controls and travel restrictions.
“Even as China imposed internal travel restrictions, [it still allowed] their people to travel throughout the world including to Europe, which then allows … travelers in Europe to spread disease across the United States,” Azar said.