Quarantined British woman not 'incarcerated': Taiwan officials

03/26/2020 09:35 PM
Photo courtesy of Hualien County Health Bureau
Photo courtesy of Hualien County Health Bureau

Taipei, March 26 (CNA) Taiwan government officials said Thursday that a British woman who is in quarantine in Taiwan due to COVID-19 coronavirus control measures has not been "incarcerated," as has been reported by the BBC.

At a press conference, Hualien County Health Bureau Director Chu Chia-hsiang (朱家祥) said the woman Natalie Dawson, along with her Australian partner Rohan Pixley, are in quarantine at a facility in Hualien, which was once a school dormitory.

They each have a single room of about 26 square meters, which is equipped with internet, a reading desk, chair, bed, and other basic necessities, and they have access to the bathrooms that are on each floor of the building, Chu said.

Dawson and Pixley have also been receiving three meals a day during their quarantine, which started shortly after they arrived in Taiwan on March 14, according to Chu.

He said when the couple was asked to self-quarantine, the hotel at which they were staying agreed that they could remain there, but they could not afford the cost for an extended period, so they were taken to the former school dorm, at which they pay only NT$250 (US$8.18) each per day for three meals.

Chu said he was surprised to see the BBC report, which quoted Dawson's mother as saying that her daughter and Pixley had been separated and "incarcerated."

"They are locked in and they can't get out," the mother Jill Weaver was quoted as saying. "One man brings them food three times a day. But it is of poor quality and meagre portions."

Weaver also said she was not disputing the need for the quarantine, but rather was taking issue with the conditions in which her daughter was living at the moment.

"The room is filthy," Weaver was quoted as saying in the BBC report. "She has no hot water and nowhere to wash her clothes."

In response, Chu said his office had not received any complaints of anyone being locked in at the quarantine facility, but the local government had dispatched police to the site to investigate the claims. He did not say what the police had found.

Meanwhile, the British Office in Taipei told CNA Thursday that it has been providing assistance to Dawson, who has special dietary needs.

"The staff of the British Office has been working with the Taiwanese authorities to effectively address a number of concerns, including access to food that would meet her essential dietary requirements," the office told CNA. "The Taiwanese authorities have provided her a telephone to maintain contact with family and friends."

The office said its staff has also been providing support to arrange Dawson's onward travel plans when her quarantine ends.

According the BBC report, Dawson and Pixley had planned a few days stopover in Taiwan en route to Australia but were told that they had to go into quarantine for 14 days.

Also commenting on the issue, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said when Dawson was first taken to the quarantine facility in Hualien, she was given a room with an ensuite bathroom, but she was moved to a different room after she complained that the water heater in the bathroom was not functioning.

A regular meal (top) and gluten-free meal (bottom) served at the Hualien quarantine facility (Photo courtesy of Hualien County Health Bureau)
A regular meal (top) and gluten-free meal (bottom) served at the Hualien quarantine facility (Photo courtesy of Hualien County Health Bureau)

According to MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安), Dawson at first was not receiving gluten-free meals, as she had requested, but that was soon addressed.

Dawson had also requested that she and Pixley be allowed to stay in the same room, but that was not permitted because it would have defeated the purpose of the quarantine, Ou said.

Under Taiwan's current temporary regulations, its borders have been closed to most foreign nationals, and those who entered shortly before the ban was imposed were required to self-quarantine for two weeks, as the country tightened its measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), foreign nationals in quarantine in Taiwan may contact the relevant government departments if they need assistance.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Chang Chi, Tzeng Yi-shiuan and Emerson Lim)

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