《TAIPEI TIMES》 Mayors Ko, Hou promise medical aid
New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi, left, and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je gesture at each other at a news conference following a joint city mayoral level meeting in Taipei yesterday. Photo: CNA
MUTUAL SERVICES: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said that the cities might conduct a trial of mask dispenser machines and would not allow their borders hamper medical treatment
By Jake Chung / Staff writer, with CNA
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je （柯文哲） and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi （侯友宜） yesterday pledged at an annual meeting of the cities’ leaders to provide mutual medical services and further collaboration on COVID-19 prevention, denying that their prevention strategies are inconsistent, despite media reports.
Disease prevention should be predicated on the “best preparations for worst-case scenarios,” and the New Taipei City Government has followed the All-out Defense Mobilization Readiness Act （全民防衛動員準備法） in taking precautions allowing it to act decisively if a city lockdown is ordered by the central government, Hou, a former police officer, said on Wednesday.
Ko, a physician and the chairman of the Taiwan People’s Party, said that the Taipei City Government has also taken precautionary measures, but that such measures should not get “too far” ahead of the present coronavirus situation.
Their remarks triggered speculation that the two cities might be diverging on disease-prevention policy.
At yesterday’s meeting, the two mayors constantly applauded each other, vowing to work together to stop the virus’ spread.
The cities are considering a trial of mask dispenser machines and would not let each other’s borders stop them from providing medical treatment, Ko said, adding that the two plan to set up shared locations for isolating COVID-19 patients.
“The two cities are a body of life and there is no problem with inconsistency,” Hou said, adding that he is working closely with Ko on prevention strategies.
A hotline has been set up so that the mayors can handle any emergency, Hou said.
Taipei City Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang （黃珊珊） said that each city notifies the other about any coronavirus-related information so that officials stay informed.
Asked about his party’s suggestion that Premier Su Tseng-chang （蘇貞昌） take over from Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung （陳時中） as head of the Central Epidemic Command Center, Ko said the move was not necessary.
Su and Chen should communicate and arrive at a consensus regarding policies, Ko added.
Local media and commentators often compare Chen and Ko, both medical professionals.
While Chen is gaining popularity for his professionalism and pragmatism as the center’s head, Ko has drawn criticism for frequent slips of the tongue. The two have butted heads over the best way to evacuate Taiwanese citizens after the lockdown in Wuhan, China, is lifted.
Ko said that the government should focus on the work at hand and not waste time on a meaningless war of words.
Hou said that New Taipei City would follow the central government’s guidance on disease prevention, adding that the two city leaders are shoulder-to-shoulder on that issue.
Separately, Huang said that the Taipei City Government is considering a special scheme that would hire volunteers to help with home quarantines.
“Local borough wardens and district offices are swamped,” Huang said, adding that she would discuss the project with the Taipei Civil Affairs Bureau while waiting for guidance from the central government.
A visitor to a pomelo orchard in the Maling Mountain area of Keelung City’s Qidu District has arranged pomelo flower leaves to spell out words of encouragement to Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung, who is spearheading the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Yu Chao-fu, Taipei Times