Taipei, Feb. 7 (CNA) Taiwan on Friday reiterated its stance on evacuating Taiwanese nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the new coronavirus, saying that its priorities are helping vulnerable people and sticking to the highest level of quarantine measures.
"When it comes to the issue of the evacuation charter flights, our two top considerations are prevention and management of the disease and helping vulnerable people return to Taiwan," President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said during a visit to the Central Epidemic Command Center.
"We do not have political considerations," she said. "As long as the two sides fully communicate and cooperate, I do believe that we will be able to take good care of our people."
Tsai said Taiwan has relayed its position on the issue to the Chinese side, and she was confident that the second wave of evacuations would be carried out swiftly and smoothly with China's full cooperation.
"We will stay firm and continue to communicate (with the Chinese side) based on our principles," she said, in response to reporters' questions on when the next round of evacuations of Taiwan nationals in Wuhan could be expected.
The controversy arose when the first group of Taiwanese evacuees arrived from Wuhan on Feb. 3, and it was discovered that three of the 247 people on the charter flight had not been on the priority list Taiwan provided to China.
The problem escalated when one of the three passengers tested positive for the 2019 new coronavirus (2019-nCoV), becoming the 11th patient in Taiwan to be diagnosed with the disease.
Against that backdrop, Taiwan berated China for not sticking to the priority list provided and for lax quarantine measures.
Any further evacuations must be carried out precisely to minimize the risks of infection and to allow Taiwanese nationals stranded in China to return home safe and sound, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the Beijing-based Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), said a list of 979 Taiwanese waiting to be evacuated from Wuhan had been sent to Taiwan via civil aviation channels earlier in the day.
The Taiwanese were scheduled to be flown out in five groups on charters provided by the China Eastern Airlines -- two groups on Thursday, two on Friday and one on Saturday -- but the evacuation plan was aborted due to Taiwan's unresponsiveness, TAO spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said.
According to Ma, Taiwan had also said it could not accommodate so many evacuees at such short notice. "But that should not be a reason for Taiwan to refuse to take them back," he said.
In a statement issued early Friday, the MAC said the one confirmed case of 2019-nCoV on the first evacuation flight and the three other people in that group who came down with fever were the result of China's sloppy quarantine measures.
The 2019-nCoV, which started in Wuhan last December, has since resulted in more than 30,000 infections and 638 deaths, mostly in China. To date, Taiwan has confirmed 16 cases. Last week, the World Health Organization declared the virus a global health emergency.