CORONAVIRUS/All 214 evacuees from Hubei placed in quarantine

03/31/2020 11:05 AM
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Taipei, March 31 (CNA) The 214 Taiwanese nationals who returned to Taiwan on Monday night after being stranded in Hubei province by the new coronavirus outbreak have been placed in quarantine and will soon be tested for COVID-19.

The passengers were taken by about a dozen tour buses to an undisclosed quarantine venue in northern Taiwan at around 1 a.m. Tuesday after undergoing health screenings at the airport, and will be quarantined for 14 days.

Military servicemen chemically disinfected the vehicles after the passengers reached the quarantine facility.

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

The handling of these Taiwanese who were stuck in Hubei province after it went into lockdown in late January to contain the spread of the new coronavirus has been controversial.

They were all put on a list of people who required special permission to return to Taiwan, unlike other Taiwanese currently returning from areas where the virus seems much more active, such as the United States and Europe.

Those on the list are being required to return on special pre-arranged flights, which the government is describing as "charter-like flights," and then put in quarantine in government-run facilities after arriving home.

People arriving from other parts of China or other parts of the world can take regularly scheduled commercial flights to Taiwan and self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

The 214 Taiwanese had to make their way on their own from Hubei province to Shanghai's Pudong International Airport to catch the special flight operated by China Airlines, which departed at 8:02 p.m. Monday and arrived at Taoyuan International Airport at 9:38 p.m.

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

The first was arranged late Sunday, when 153 Taiwanese returned home.

These Taiwanese had been stranded in Hubei since late January but were able to leave the area after restrictions on the movement of people there were lifted on March 25.

Many others are still stuck in Wuhan, but will be able to leave if restrictions there are lifted on April 8 as scheduled.

(By Liu Chien Pang and Frances Huang)

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