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Coronavirus: 500,000 surgical masks donated to Canada from Taiwan

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A donation of 500,000 surgical masks needed by health-care workers on the front lines of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been officially handed over to Canada from Taiwan.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer posted a picture Tuesday of himself accepting the masks at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada, thanking Taiwan for its “generous donation.”

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A spokesperson for the office confirmed the handover took place on Monday.

The masks arrived in separate shipments from Taipei between April 24 and 28, and officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada then spent “a few days” conducting compliance tests to ensure they could be used, the spokesperson said.

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A press release from the Taipei office on April 28 announcing the donation says 400,000 of the masks will go to the Canadian Red Cross, who will distribute them to hospitals, front-line workers and Indigenous communities.

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Out of the remainder, 50,000 masks will be sent to Ontario, while Alberta and British Columbia will each receive 25,000. The office said the premiers of those provinces made formal requests for the deliveries.

The office’s representative, Ambassador Winston Wen-yi Chen, said in the release that the donation was a chance for Taiwan to “extend a helping hand to the frontline medical staff in Canada.”

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Canada is continuing to order personal protective equipment (PPE) from around the world, particularly from Chinese suppliers, to add to its National Emergency Strategic Stockpile and distribute supplies across the country.

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According to Public Services and Procurement Canada, the government has ordered 327.5 million surgical masks. As of April 30, Canada has received just under 26 million of those masks, which are subject to the same testing as the ones from Taiwan.

Nearly 1.5 billion other PPE supplies combined have also been ordered, according to PSPC, with over 20 million received.

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Taiwan has reported far fewer cases of the coronavirus than many of its neighbours, due to early and effective detection and prevention work.

Yet Taiwan continues to be blocked from joining the World Health Organization by China, which considers the island one of its provinces.

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Taiwan argues its exclusion, even as an observer at WHO meetings, has created a dangerous gap in the fight against the pandemic.

In the meantime, the state says it will continue to donate supplies wherever it can.

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“Taiwan can help and Taiwan is helping,” Chen said.

“We will win this fight against COVID-19 only by working together.”

— With files from Reuters