Taiwan asks WHO to help close disease control 'gap'

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GENEVA, Sep 14 (Reuters) Taiwan today asked the World Health Organisation to help close a ''gap'' in disease control, citing poor monitoring of health risks in the self-ruled island.

Taiwan has repeatedly been denied member state status in the Geneva-based UN health agency, where it is represented by mainland China.

Beijing considers Taiwan a rebel state and wants to bring it under mainland rule, by force if necessary. It opposes Taiwan joining the WHO and other UN bodies.

In a statement issued by its diplomatic offices in Geneva, Taipei said it was concerned that Beijing had not done enough to implement WHO's international health rules requiring strict oversight of disease outbreaks and other threats in Taiwan.

It raised particular concern over the handling of two tuberculosis patients, one with a multi-drug resistant strain, who defied a flight ban and travelled from Taiwan to mainland China through Hong Kong in July.

Taiwan said while its Centres for Disease Control (CDC) promptly reported the incident to the WHO and to Chinese health authorities, communication on how to contain the contagion did not occur ''in a direct and timely manner'' as Beijing had been the UN agency's point of contact.

''It is the Taiwan CDC that has been totally in charge of detecting, assessing, notifying and reporting the case with effective responses as expected by the (international health regulations),'' the statement said.

The WHO rules, which came into effect in June, require countries to disclose potential threats from disease, chemical agents, radioactive materials and contaminated food. Taiwan enacted them unilaterally but is not in direct contact with the WHO because it is not a member.

While Taipei intends to implement the global health rules on its own, it ''still needs the cooperation of the WHO so as to be included, on a de facto basis at least, in the global system.'' ''The gap caused by Taiwan's exclusion from the (international health regulations) not only threatens Taiwan's health security, but also puts other countries at great risk,'' the statement said.

''Therefore, the Taipei delegation urges the WHO and its member states to look into the problem and take appropriate actions in helping find a solution to close the gap in the global disease control system,'' it added.

REUTERS SBC AS1845

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