Taipei welcomes donations as cases fall . . .
On Tuesday, Japan said it would send 1.13 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan, adding to the 1.24 million it already donated to Taiwan last month. Other countries, including the U.S. and Lithuania, have also sent vaccines to Taiwan. Around 10 per cent of the population has received at least one dose, and the government hopes this number will reach 25 per cent by the end of the month. With case numbers gradually falling, the government is looking to ease some of the restrictions imposed after major outbreaks in May caused widespread panic on the island.
The China factor in vaccine procurement . . .
Although the worst of the pandemic seems to be over in Taiwan, vaccine procurement continues to be a major political issue. After failing to secure a deal directly with BioNTech due to a controversy regarding the use of the word “country” in reference to Taiwan, the government allowed companies to negotiate vaccine deals on its behalf. Reuters reported that Taiwan’s Foxconn and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) reached initial agreements last Friday to purchase BioNTech vaccines through a subsidiary of Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, a private Chinese company with distribution rights in Greater China. While the Tsai Administration has preferred to rely on donations from allies, industry sources say that Beijing has encouraged procurement through Fosun to give the impression that vaccines are coming from China.
Bitter struggle between rival political parties . . .
The opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) has accused the Tsai Administration of being ineffective and of trying to control the pandemic in such a way that would shore up support for itself. Widespread disinformation campaigns on social media have increased mistrust between the KMT and ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) parties, while also exacerbating the political polarization between their supporters. On Monday, members of the DPP urged the KMT to put aside partisan politics and work together. However, tensions between the two parties will likely continue, especially as Taiwan readies itself for what may be a series of highly divisive referendums postponed to December on issues including energy, the import of U.S. pork, and the conduct of referendums themselves.