214 Taiwanese back in Taiwan after long ordeal in Hubei province

03/30/2020 10:49 PM
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Taipei, March 30 (CNA) A second special flight carrying 214 Taiwan nationals who had been stranded in Hubei province in China because of the new coronavirus outbreak touched down late Monday at Taoyuan International Airport.

The government-contracted China Airlines (CAL) flight departed Shanghai's Pudong International Airport at 8:02 p.m. and arrived at the Taoyuan airport at 9:38 p.m.

Upon arrival, all passengers were to undergo a health screening, with those displaying symptoms of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to be sent immediately to a hospital for a complete diagnosis and treatment.

Those who show no symptoms will be transported to designated quarantine facilities for mandatory 14-day quarantines to prevent them from coming into contact with local residents.

All returnees will be tested for COVID-19 within 48 hours, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

It was the second of two special flights contracted by the Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), a semi-official organization that handles cross-Taiwan Strait affairs in the absence of formal bilateral links, to bring home Taiwan citizens stuck in Hubei.

Late Sunday, 153 Taiwanese who had been stranded in Hubei but were able to leave the area after restrictions on the movement of people there were lifted March 25, returned to Taiwan on another special flight and were sent to a designated quarantine site in northern Taiwan.

The handling of people returning from Hubei has been somewhat controversial because they are being treated more strictly than Taiwanese coming home from Western countries.

Travelers from the United States and Europe can take regularly scheduled passenger flights to Taiwan and then must stay quarantined at home for 14 days.

Certain passengers from China, however, are still required to take government-arranged "charter-like flights" home and then be quarantined in official quarantine facilities, despite lower COVID-19 case numbers in China than in the West in recent weeks.

The flights Sunday and Monday were the third round of evacuations of Taiwan nationals and family members who had been stuck in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, the China epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, since they were sealed off in late January.

The first charter flight on Feb. 3 evacuated 247 individuals, and two flights on March 10 and March 11 brought home another 361 people.

The Chinese province lifted restrictions on outbound travel on March 25 after being on lockdown for several weeks, but Wuhan will remain sealed off until April 8, according to Chinese authorities.

(By Shen Peng-ta and Evelyn Kao)

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