by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Eric Chu/Facebook

THE KMT HAS sought to attack the Tsai administration over the issue of rapid tests as of late, taking advantage of public outrage over rapid test shortages. This follows a familiar script, seeing as the KMT has sought to use shortages of various medical supplies used to fight COVID-19 to attack the DPP throughout the course of the pandemic. 

Such attacks from the KMT take place as Taiwan transitions away from the COVID-zero approach that it has maintained for the duration of the pandemic and seeks to transition to COVID management strategies. As such, there has been a public clamor for rapid tests, resulting in nationwide shortages in pharmacies. 

Rapid tests are in high demand, because of the higher number of close contacts of COVID-19 cases quarantined. Current policies require three days of quarantine, followed by four days of self-health management, but contacts will require a negative COVID-19 rapid test to be allowed to go outside during the self-health management period.

KMT graphic attacking the Tsai administration on its COVID policies, riffing off a recent popular Internet quiz. Photo credit: KMT/Facebook

In order to conserve testing capacity, after May 12th, rapid tests are now treated the same as a confirmed COVID-19 case. Likewise, diagnosis occurs through arrangements made via the Eucare app, instead of individuals traveling to hospitals or contacting authorities to arrange tests.

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) that coordinates Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has acted to institute a rapid test rationing system, which is tied to individuals’ National Health Insurance card. Nevertheless, there have been criticisms of the CECC for long lines at pharmacies and other places that sell rapid tests. 

Likewise, as might be expected, not all members of the public have accepted the transition away from COVID-zero as necessary in light of the inability to keep COVID-19 out of Taiwan’s border indefinitely. Instead, they perceive the Tsai administration as having mismanaged the outbreak. 

The KMT, then, would be foolish not to leverage on the opportunity to attack the Tsai administration. Though the KMT itself would likely have few options except to accommodate to co-existing with COVID-19 if it were in power, in the course of the pandemic, it has leveraged on any opportunity it can to attack the Tsai administration, opposing each and every policy of the Tsai administration it could. 

To this extent, the KMT’s attacks on the Tsai administration have honed on the issue of rapid tests, Apart from alleging that the Tsai administration blocked imports of some rapid test brands from Taiwan but allowed others, the KMT has alleged irregularities with the companies allowed to import rapid tests, though the CECC will likely soon shift toward allowing individuals to import COVID-19 rapid tests. 

Such allegations are from as high up in the party as chair Eric Chu, leading Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung to emphasize during a recent CECC press conference that Chu’s statements were false. 

This claim proves similar to how the KMT sought to attack the Tsai administration over vaccine shortages that Taiwan experienced earlier in the outbreak. During Taiwan’s first major COVID-19 outbreak in May, Taiwan experienced vaccine shortages, as also occurred with other countries that are not major world powers. 

The KMT depicted this as a particular fault of the Tsai administration, however, alleging that the Tsai administration had failed to procure vaccines. Members of the pan-Blue camp such as FoxConn founder Terry Gou sought to capitalize on what they framed as the Tsai administration’s failures, by pursuing efforts to import vaccines themselves, and, in that way, hoping to upstage the Tsai administration. 

KMT graphic attacking the Tsai administration as cold-blooded. Photo credit: KMT/Facebook

As part of this narrative, the KMT alleged that the vaccines that the Tsai administration was able to obtain, mostly AstraZeneca vaccines, were dangerous and that the only safe vaccines were BioNTech vaccines. Gou claimed that he would import BioNTech vaccines for Taiwan, and was eventually successful in purchasing BioNTech vaccines–though this required the CECC to sign onto the deal, and to provide some of the required paperwork. The purchase only took place after much back and forth between Gou and the CECC about whether Gou could provide the necessary paperwork and credentials for a vaccine purchase to take place, seeing as vaccine manufacturers normally only sell to governments.

The KMT also attacked the domestically-developed Medigen vaccine, which the Tsai administration backed the development of, in order to convince members of the public that only BioNTech was safe, and that BioNTech’s arrival in Taiwan was the credit of the pan-Blue camp. KMT politicians suggested that the Tsai administration was only in developing Medigen because members of the DPP had investments in the company. 

So, too, with rapid tests, then, seeing as the KMT has attacked the Tsai administration for initial shortages much as it did with vaccines. Once measures were made to provide for the importation of rapid tests, the KMT then moved onto attacking the Tsai administration by alleging corruption regarding the companies involved in procuring rapid tests, or which rapid tests were allowed to be imported. This proves similar to the KMT’s allegations of corruption against the Tsai administration regarding domestic vaccine development, so as to alleviate shortages. One expects such attacks from the KMT to continue. 

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