TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A BBC article that alleged a British woman was being held in "prison-like conditions" has been deleted after the Taiwanese government rebutted the allegation and a massive backlash from Taiwanese and foreign netizens alike.
On Thursday (March 26) the BBC released a report in which a British woman identified as Jill Weaver claimed her daughter had been "incarcerated" and separated from her partner. Later that same day, Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) denied any mistreatment had occurred and refuted Weaver's account.
Weaver claimed her 28-year-old daughter, Nathalie Dawson, and her Australian partner, Rohan Pixley, had originally planned a stopover in Taiwan on their way to Australia. However, as the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic escalated, their flight to Australia was canceled, and a new rule was put in place requiring travelers who had been in Europe as far back as March 5 to undergo a 14-day quarantine in Taiwan.
Weaver said the couple had agreed to undergo their quarantine in the hotel they had originally booked for their stay. However, she claims they were suddenly moved by ambulance to an "unknown location."
Dawson's mother complained that "They are locked in and they can't get out," and she decried the fact that they are delivered only three meals a day. She further complained that the food is "of poor quality and meager portions."
She went on to allege that "The room is filthy. She has no hot water and nowhere to wash her clothes." Weaver said the couple understands the need to undergo quarantine but claimed the conditions they were being kept in are "just awful."
During a press conference later that day, Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) emphasized that the couple had not been mistreated. He added that if the couple required additional assistance, he would be willing to arrange consular support from the British Office in Taiwan.
Chen said that the hot water heater broke when the couple checked in on March 15. Chen added, however, that it was repaired at 2 a.m. in the morning.
Meanwhile, MOFA Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that accusations did not conform to the facts. Ou said MOFA "deeply regrets that some media outlet published such negative and false content that alludes to and criticizes Taiwan's national epidemic prevention image without verification."
Many Taiwanese netizens were outraged at what they perceived to be a biased report and made their anger known on the BBC East Midlands Facebook page. Many pointed out that the Taiwanese government was providing the couple with housing free of charge and that the actual conditions in the quarantine center are far from "prison-like."
Foreign residents of Taiwan also criticized the BBC for its one-sided coverage of the incident and defended Taiwan's handling of the crisis. Twitter user Edward Lindon, for example, criticized the BBC for its "unsubstantiated, biased, ignorant article," and wrote that he was "very reassured by this govt's sensible and effective handling of the crisis."
Later that evening, the BBC added an update that included the statements by MOFA and CECC to provide a more balanced report. However, a few hours later, the article was taken down from the BBC website, and clicking on its link now yields a 404 error message. All posts posts of the article were removed from social media as well.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Due to negligence by the staff of Air New Zealand, three foreign travelers are currently trapped at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and are unable to return to the Pacific nation after it instituted a lockdown on Thursday (March 26).
The three passengers, who include one British and two Japanese citizens, landed in Taiwan Thursday only to find that the island country had halted all flight transfers as well as banned foreign nationals from entering its territory. Unable to return to New Zealand or transfer in Taiwan, the three have been stranded at the airport since their arrival.
According to reporters, the trio had been planning to make transfers in Taiwan and had not been informed about the new regulations. Air New Zealand apologized for the carelessness on its part but said the three will not be allowed to re-enter New Zealand since they do not possess residency visas.
The National Immigration Agency (NIA) told the media that Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is aware of the situation and is mulling ways to tackle it. The NIA said there is a high possibility that the Taiwanese authorities will exempt the travelers from the flight transfer suspension. Otherwise, they would have to stay at the airport until April 7.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) dismissed accusations by a British national that the country’s quarantine conditions are “prison-like.”
Su said Friday (March 27) before attending a legislative interpellation session that the allegations made by the British woman were unfounded and untrue. Taiwan has endeavored to ensure that everyone who requires quarantine arrangements is fairly treated, including foreign nationals.
A new rule requires travelers who have been in Europe as far back as March 5 to undergo a 14-day quarantine in Taiwan.
Citing a “quarantine diary” written by a Japanese journalist from The Asahi Shimbun, the premier said Taiwan has tried its best to implement the soundest measure possible when it comes to its isolation policy. He also urged Taiwanese residents subject to quarantine to observe the rules and refrain from engaging in activities that hinder disease prevention efforts or add to society's burdens.
The BBC on Thursday (March 26) carried a story in which a British woman claimed her daughter, Natalie Dawson, was "incarcerated," mistreated, and separated from her Australian partner upon their stopover in Taiwan on their way to Australia. The allegations triggered an outcry among the Taiwanese public, who defended their government’s help in providing accommodation for the cash-strapped couple and said the conditions of the quarantine in no way resembled a prison.
Expressing its regret over the story, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebutted the accusations, reported Storm Media. The BBC has since retracted the report.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Two Taiwanese teens could be facing a NT$1 million (US$33,000) fine after they shirked their 14-day quarantine to get lunch.
The pair of unnamed exchange students had returned from the U.S. on Wednesday morning (March 25). They went straight from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to their hometown of Hualien City in eastern Taiwan.
According to new regulations, all persons returning from overseas must undergo a two-week quarantine before they venture out. However, the two teens were soon on the streets of Hualien that same day.
They posted photos of themselves on social media wearing masks and buying oyster omelets (蚵仔煎) for lunch. Concerned friends soon sent direct messages reminding them they should stay at home during quarantine and not flout the law.
However, the boys were defiant, with one writing on Instagram, "You're crying just because we bought lunch?" Since they documented their escapade on social media, authorities were soon alerted to their illegal activities.
The Hualien Department of Education confirmed the Hualien County Health Bureau has been notified of the incident. It will impose a fine on the students of between NT$100,000 to NT$1 million, in accordance with the law.
TVBS cited the owner of the oyster omelet store as saying, "They're killing me. I have to disinfect myself tonight. Tomorrow I have to close it down." The store owner said he had been informed by Department of Health officials the students had purchased the omelets from his shop earlier that day.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The second version of Taiwan's new mask-rationing website launched on Wednesday (March 25) with an English option.
Individuals can place pre-orders for surgical masks between 8 a.m. March 25 and 8 p.m. March 27 on the second version of the eMask Ordering System. After many foreign residents complained that the website's interface was entirely in Chinese, there is now an English option as well.
Although the language barrier is no longer an issue, foreigners still only have the option of using their National Health Insurance (NHI) cards, and they must use a card reader to enter them into the system. Fortunately, card readers (讀卡機) are quite inexpensive at around NT$200 (US$6.60) and easily purchased at electronics stores and on e-commerce sites in Taiwan.
The card reader is needed to complete the process of registering NHI cards online. The registration process also requires the installation of a plugin, preferably on a desktop computer, as mobile devices require further authentication.
Once the plugin is installed and the card reader is plugged into a computer with the NHI card inserted, the user will need to fill out information about their ARC. Next, they will need to choose the nearest branch of one of four convenience store chains: 7-Eleven, OK-Mart, FamilyMart, or Hi-Life.
Those who successfully place their pre-orders will receive a payment notification, and payment can be made by ATM transfer (through a mobile bank, internet bank, internet ATM, or physical ATM) or credit card within the designated payment period. Mobile app pre-purchases can only be paid via ATM transfer.
After the transaction is successful, the purchaser will receive a delivery number via SMS. After receiving the delivery notification, those who pay between March 28 and 30 will see their masks delivered to contracted convenience stores between April 2 and 8.
Customers need to bring their delivery number and a form of identification (ARC, NHI card, or driver's license) to the convenience store. Next, they need to enter the delivery number and their ID card number at multi-function kiosks (such as ibon, FamiPort, Life-ET, OK-go) and print out a receipt.
Finally, customers will need to hand the receipt to the convenience store clerk to obtain the masks that were ordered.
The total cost for the weekly ration of three masks is NT$22, including an NT$7 shipping fee. Dubbed the "Real-name Mask System 2.0," the mechanism was introduced on March 12 and has been used 117.8 million times.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The New Taipei City Government should prepare for the eventuality of a mass community outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) said Wednesday (March 25).
At a city meeting about the virus pandemic, Hou said each department needed to take the necessary measures to cover financial, transportation, staffing, hygienic and technical issues.
The former national police chief said that once an emergency occurred, the city authorities needed to control the traffic flow within one or two hours. While he did not directly mention the possibility of a city lockdown, Hou said all government departments needed to prepare for any eventuality.
On Thursday (March 26), he would meet with Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) to discuss the coronavirus issue and announce new measures. Hou said both cities would “fight shoulder to shoulder.”
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — To ease the impact of the coronavirus on Taiwan's tourism industry, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) is planning to give subsidies to 140,000 of the country's hospitality workers.
According to CNA, the MOTC has asked the central government for an NT$10 billion (US$331 million) budget to keep businesses in the hospitality industry afloat both during and after the outbreak. Part of the budget was granted by the Cabinet on Tuesday (March 24), while the rest is currently under review.
The project was first announced on March 9 by Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and has since been amended. The MOTC said the project will mainly focus on providing funds to stabilize travel agencies and small and medium hotels.
The project, which is expected to roll out in April, will supplement the salaries of approximately 140,000 hospitality workers, many of whom have been forced to take unpaid leave due to the pandemic. Each will receive NT$10,000 (US$330) per month for three months.
The MOTC said the project will also supply NT$100,000 (US$3,300) in monthly relief funds to travel agencies and NT$200,000 to tourist hotels for three months. It added that the government is also investing NT$2 billion (US$66 million) to recruit and train tour guides.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced in a statement on Tuesday evening that a Frenchman in Taiwan was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, bringing the tally of confirmed cases in the country to 216.
The CECC said that the Frenchman is in his 30s and lives in northern Taiwan. The man came into contact with the 84th COVID-19 patient: a person who entered Taiwan on March 12, had a fever on March 16, and was confirmed on March 18.
The Frenchman’s contact with the virus was traced back to March 12, when the 84th patient stayed at his house after coming to Taiwan. The command center has traced the Frenchman’s contacts to a total of 29 people, and the contact tracing will continue.
The Frenchman suffered from a fever and cough on March 20, when he was self-quarantining at home, the CECC said. He was later hospitalized and given a test for COVID-19, which came out positive today. He is now being isolated for treatment at a ward with negative pressure ventilation.
As of today, the 216 confirmed cases in Taiwan include 178 imported cases and 38 domestic cases.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After someone at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) was diagnosed with Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), 20 classes have been suspended, affecting nearly 1,000 students and instructors.
On Tuesday (March 24), NTHU President Hong Hocheng (賀陳弘) announced on Facebook that because 26 students and faculty had come in contact with a confirmed case, they will need to begin a 14-day quarantine. In addition, Hong announced that 20 classes would be suspended, affecting over 900 people.
The affected faculty and students have been notified via SMS and e-mail and are being told to conduct self-health management from Tuesday through March 31. They are advised to avoid public places as much as possible and, when going out, to wear a mask and check their body temperatures each morning and evening.
They have also been asked to keep a detailed record of their activities. The president said that the suspended courses will be changed to distance learning classes, also through March 31.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan is on track to reach its goal of producing 13 million surgical masks per day by April, and the next step is to ramp up production of N95 respirators.
During a press conference on Monday (March 23), Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Chuan-neng (林全能) said that Taiwan's factories are currently churning out a weekly average of 12 million masks per day, with 12.6 million cranked out on Sunday (March 22). Lin added that average daily production is well on track to meet the government's goal of 13 million by the start of April.
As panic buying set in at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs in February purchased 60 production lines. Since then, it has spent an additional NT$90 million on an additional 32 lines, with two children's mask lines starting up on Tuesday (March 24) and two surgical mask lines opening on Friday (March 27) with the goal of having them all operational by the end of the month.
Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花), was cited by reporters as saying that the ministry is in the process of acquiring machinery to manufacture N95 respirators and that production capacity for the masks is currently under discussion. She said that once online, the masks would first be reserved for frontline medical staff and epidemic prevention personnel.
Wang Meihua explained that as the number of cases has increased in Taiwan, the demand for N95 masks for front-line personnel at hospitals and airports has also risen. In order to protect these people and reserve an adequate supply in advance, the ministry has decided to buy new N95 respirator production equipment, but the details of the new manufacturing lines and quantity they will produce have not been determined.