Taipei, Feb. 14 (CNA) Dozens of friends and family members of Taiwanese citizens stuck in the coronavirus epicenter of Wuhan in China's Hubei Province rallied in downtown Taipei Friday to urge the Taiwan government to help their loved ones to get home.
Over 50 people carried placards and signs outside the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) that read "I want to come home" to show the desire of Taiwanese in Wuhan to leave the city, which is on lockdown in an effort to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Since the coronavirus surfaced in Wuhan in December, the virus has caused more than 65,000 infections and 1,300 deaths worldwide, mainly in China. Taiwan has 18 confirmed cases to date.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a global health emergency last month.
One mother, who wished to be identified only as Lily, said her 16-year-old daughter has been stuck in Wuhan since the lockdown was implemented on Jan. 23.
Her daughter, who has Taiwanese citizenship, arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 20 to visit relatives and was supposed to return to Taiwan Jan. 23.
"My daughter said to me that her text books state that a government has the responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens, such as making sure they can go to school or return home. 'Why is it that we are treated as sick patients and are unable to return home in the name of disease prevention,'" Lily quoted her daughter as saying.
Meanwhile, a man surnamed Chou (周), said his younger brother and sister-in-law, who both have Taiwanese citizenship, are also trapped in Hubei.
"They all work and pay tax in Taiwan," Chou said. "When we have a citizen trapped on a mountain or out in the wilderness, we send rescue helicopters to save them. Now that we have over 900 citizens trapped in Hubei, why are we not evacuating them?"
Chung Chin-ming (鍾錦明), chairman of a civic group dedicated to helping new immigrant families in Taiwan in which either the husband or wife is a Chinese spouse, told CNA that the number includes Taiwanese business people, people on vacation and those visiting family members over the Lunar New Year period.
After an initial privately organized repatriation of 247 people from Wuhan Feb. 3, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) called a halt to further private evacuations until proper arrangements between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait could be made rather than using private groups.
He noted that one of the 247 evacuees later tested positive for COVID-19.
Despite Friday's rally by around 50 people urging the government to formulate a solution for evacuation, the MAC did not give a statement or an official response.
However, speaking to the media in Tainan, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said priority should be given to the people who need help the most and also to disease prevention.
Communication on the issue between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should be established through the proper channels and at the same time, disease prevention efforts should be maximized, she said.
Meanwhile, Taiwan on Wednesday barred the entry of children of Taiwanese or Chinese nationals with only Chinese passports, reversing a new policy announced a day earlier that allowed the entry of such children.
Eric Chu (朱立倫), a former chairman of the opposition Kuomintang, on Friday blasted the government policy U-turn, saying that disease prevention is important, but should not separate families.