Taiwanese pay respects to former President Lee Teng-hui

In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen pays her respects at a memorial for former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui in Taipei, Taiwan, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Lee, who brought direct elections and other democratic changes to the self-governed island despite missile launches and other fierce saber-rattling by China, died on Thursday at age 97. (AP)
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Updated 01 August 2020

Taiwanese pay respects to former President Lee Teng-hui

  • Among the visitors Saturday was current President Tsai Ing-wen
  • The memorial will remain until Aug. 16.

TAIPEI, Taiwan: Taiwan’s leaders and its people were paying their respects Saturday to former President Lee Teng-hui, who died this week at age 97 after bringing full democracy to Taiwan and incurring the wrath of China in the process.
A traditional funeral bier was set up at the Taipei Guest House, an ornate European-style building that was home to Japanese governors during Taiwan’s 1895-1945 colonial period.
Among the visitors Saturday was current President Tsai Ing-wen, who wrote in a book of condolences, “You shall forever be watching over democratic Taiwan.”
Lee strove to create a separate, democratic identity for Taiwan, angering not only China, which considers the island part of its territory, but also members of his Nationalist Party who hoped to return victorious to the mainland.
Lee ushered in the island’s first direct presidential elections in 1996 and other democratic changes to the self-governed island despite missile launches and other fierce saber-rattling by China.
Taipei Veterans General Hospital said Lee died on Thursday after suffering from infections, cardiac problems and organ failure since being hospitalized in February.
Lee studied in Japan, spoke fluent Japanese and strove to maintain traditional ties between Tokyo and its former colonial possession.
Along with Tsai and Premier Lai Ching-te, Japan’s chief representative in Taiwan, Izumi Hiroyasu also paid his respects, reading in a statement that “Japan and Taiwan both lost a person that was very important to each other.”
“He laid the foundation for this free and democratic Taiwan of today,” Hiroyasu said.
Hsu, a woman from the central city of Taichung, said she came to “express my gratitude and respect.”
“In our times, he witnessed the martial law and the lifting of it. I saw him lead Taiwan to become a democracy,” Hsu said.
The memorial will remain until Aug. 16. No official word has been given on funeral arrangements.
China, which frequently hurled angry epithets at Lee over his promotion of Taiwan’s’ separate status, has largely ignored his passing.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Friday responded only by saying “Taiwan independence is an impassable road. China’s national reunification and national rejuvenation is a major historical trend and cannot be stopped by anyone or any force.”
Taiwanese sentiment opposing political unification with China has risen to historical highs and voters this year reelected Tsai by a wide margin over her China-friendly Nationalist opponent.


Philippines says workplace transmission main reason behind COVID-19 surge

Updated 27 min 34 sec ago

Philippines says workplace transmission main reason behind COVID-19 surge

  • Govt has reintroduced quarantine measures in Metro Manila and nearby provinces

MANILA: Workplace common areas have been the main source of a surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the Philippines, the country’s virus response chief, Carlito Galvez Jr., said on Thursday.
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 3,561 new COVID-19 cases nationwide, bringing the total to 119,460 as of Thursday evening. The recent surge in virus cases and appeals from health professionals have prompted the government to reintroduce Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila — the national capital region — and surrounding provinces from Aug. 4 to Aug. 18.
“We saw that the most critical areas right now are the workplace, economic hubs, and industries because of the workers’ lack of training on public safety and minimum health standards,” Galvez said in a media briefing, adding that 80 percent of the government’s efforts will now be focused on prevention by changing the mindset and behavior of the people.
He said that “grave violations” have been observed by officials in terms of “minimum health standards” at canteens and in smoking areas.
Other alarming developments, especially in Metro Manila, he added, are the emergence of COVID-19 hotspots in densely populated areas, especially among poor communities where social distancing is difficult, as well as family-wide infections.
“Based on the data we have seen in hospitals, transmission is now not only by individuals, but by families,” Galvez said, noting that contagion happens during family gatherings.
During the same press briefing, the country’s testing czar, Vince Dizon, dismissed a news report naming the Philippines as the potential COVID-19 epicenter in Southeast Asia.
“That’s speculative,” Dizon said, explaining that the Philippines has increased its testing capacity and now conducts the highest number of daily COVID-19 tests in the whole region.
“The data shows that since we ramped up testing, we are finding more positive cases. The public has to understand that that is normal,” he said, adding that the number of COVID-19 recoveries in the country is higher than that of active cases.
According to DoH data, the number of active COVID-19 cases is 50,473, compared with 66,837 recoveries. The death toll is now 2,150 with 28 COVID-19-related fatalities reported on Thursday.
The 15-day MECQ period in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna is expected to help prevent a further surge in COVID-19 transmission and lower the number of positive cases in these areas.
To achieve this, Dizon said, the government will increase the number of isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients and intensify tracing.
“In that way, we will be able to slow down the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases,” Dizon said.