Taiwan protests WHO leader’s accusations of racist campaign 

GS Paper III

Topic: International relations and bodies

Mains: Reforming international bodies

What’s the News?

As Taiwan faces just 13 coronavirus cases on 9th April 10, 2020, its exclusion from leading global organisations has come under scrutiny as countries around the world struggle to prevent the spread of the highly-infectious virus. 

Background:

  • While Taiwan, home to nearly 24 million people, has never been ruled by China’s Communist Party, China claims Taiwan as part of its territory have long blocked it from membership from United Nations agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
  • Taiwan has steadily lost diplomatic space since the 1970s, when the Republic of China as it is formally known was replaced by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government on the mainland to represent China at the UN.
  • The distinction stems from the end of World War II when Chiang Kai-shek’s China government took control of Taiwan and later retreated to the island when it lost the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party.

Politics of International health system

  • WHO director Tedros was elected with the strong support of China, one of five permanent veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council and which claims Taiwan as its own territory.
  • He has firmly backed Beijing’s claims to have been open and transparent about the outbreak, despite strong evidence that it suppressed early reports on infections, while echoing its criticisms of the U.S.
  • Taipei accused Beijing of providing the WHO with wrong information about the number of coronavirus cases in Taiwan.
  • When WHO started to publish a world map of the epidemic using colour coding to indicate the same level of seriousness, Taiwan was given same level as China which has a direct impact on Taiwanese people and airlines who are travelling there.
  • U.S President threatened to cut the funding and called the organisation “very China centric” however Tedros has denied being partisan or holding any geopolitical bias.

Concerns:

  • Excluding Taiwan from organisations like the WHO means a loss of expertise from Taiwan’s respected medical community and successful public healthcare system.
  • Taiwan ranked 14th worldwide in the 2017 Global Access to Health Care Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and fifth in the ease of access to infectious disease care.
  • Taiwan will also be unable to share its experiences in battling the infection, as it cannot attend the upcoming meeting of the WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly.

Conclusion:

It reflects the growing geopolitical bias of international organization like WHO, ICAO in favour of China and calls for the urgent reforms of the international organization itself i.e. United Nations Organisation.


ICMR framing protocol for plasma therapy

GS Paper III

Topic: Science and Technology

Mains: Difference between active and passive immunity

What’s the News?

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is framing a protocol for infusing blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 into patients in a serious condition.

Coronavirus: Stages of a pandemic

  • First stage: In the first stage of a disease cases of an epidemic are imported into a country in which the infection did not originate and it eventually takes the form of a pandemic sweeping the globe.
  • Second stage: The second stage is when the virus starts being transmitted locally.

Local transmission means that the source of the infection is from within a particular area and the trajectory the virus has taken from one person to the next is clearly established.

  • Third stage: The third stage is that of community transmission which means that the virus is now circulating in the community, and can infect people with no history either of travel to affected areas or of contact with an infected person.
  • If and when community transmission happens, there might arise the need for a full lockdown because in that situation it is theoretically possible for every person, regardless of where they are from and who they have been in contact with, to spread the disease.
  • Fourth stage: from pandemic to endemic It is when the disease, COVID-19 in this case, becomes endemic in some countries.

Convalescent plasma therapy: 

  • The procedure, known as convalescent plasma therapy, is carried out in the expectation that antibodies specific to the Novel Coronavirus that are present in the blood of the patient who has recovered will help generate immune response in the other patient.
  • This will only be done by way of a clinical trial in patients in a severe condition or on ventilator support, ICMR officials clarified.
  • The testing strategy was revised to include antibody tests in hotspots after seven days of illness. Before that, the nucleic acid-based test will have to be done.
  • Convalescent plasma therapy, which was recently allowed by USFDA for investigational purposes, banks on the age-old concept of passive immunity. This is one of several therapeutic options being tried against COVID-19 the world over.

Conclusion:

  • A key challenge is the non-availability of the kit for checking the antibody level in the plasma of a recovered person.
  • That kit is not available in India and has to be brought from Germany and the cancellation of international flights would lead to delay.