Since overcoming its brush with COVID-19, Taiwan has made and donated 15 million surgical masks to countries around the world. On Thursday the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital was a recipient of that largess, receiving a gift of 20,000 masks.
In a country of more than 23 million people, and despite its proximity to Wuhan, China, there have only been 440 cases and seven deaths as of May 15. Taiwan took the pandemic threat seriously in December and restricted travel from Wuhan. In January, they established an epidemic command center, instituted travel restrictions, set procedures for quarantine and tracked travel and contact history.
In a videoconference news conference Thursday afternoon, JFL acting Chief Executive Officer Dyma Williams accepted the donation from David Chen, of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami, who spoke from his office in Miami.
Williams said the donation was appreciated, especially since it has been challenging to order masks, or even receive responses to attempted orders. Although the curve of the contagion is being flattened in the territory, she said supplies are needed to have on hand for 18 months to five years to prepare in case there are surges in the epidemic.
She thanked Chen on behalf of the hospital and the Government of the Virgin Islands. Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. also thanked Chen and Taiwan for the gift during his COVID press conference later in the afternoon.
Chen, the director general of Florida’s Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Consulate office, said he is pleased to be able to make the gift to the Virgin Islands, “a strategic and economic partner.” He called the pandemic “a historic, global tragedy” and said he sends prayers for recovery.
“We both maintain a close and robust relationship and friendship,” Chen said, referring to the 1979 U.S. Taiwan Relations Act. In the last few years, Taiwan and the Virgin Islands have participated in several cultural conferences with the St. Croix Economic Development Initiative to foster trade and economic relations.
Anthony Weeks, managing director of St. Croix Economic Development Initiative, also said a few words at the press conference. The economic partnership between the Virgin Islands and Taiwan could conceivably allow the territory to make masks, he said. The first step would be for Taiwan to lift export restrictions. He said the Roebuck Industrial Park would be a perfect place to set up the operation.