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Homeland Security

Officials give contradictory update on return of Taiwanese in Hubei

ROC Central News Agency

03/24/2020 08:51 PM

Taipei, March 24 (CNA) Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) on Tuesday provided conflicting information on how Taiwanese in the Chinese province of Hubei can return home once the province-wide lockdown is lifted on Wednesday.

Hubei, the China epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been entirely under lockdown since Jan. 27, and hundreds of Taiwan nationals are still stranded there after two evacuation flights in February and March.

The two-month lockdown finally ends on Wednesday, other than for the provincial capital Wuhan, the government announced Tuesday, when people will be free to travel within and outside the province.

The lockdown in Wuhan will be lifted in two weeks on April 8, the provincial government added.

As a result, officials have been asked how Taiwan nationals still there can return home, with Su and Chen providing seemingly conflicting answers Tuesday.

At a legislative hearing, Su said that those still in Hubei must return on a charter flight and will not be allowed to board commercial flights back to Taiwan.

"We welcome these people, they are our compatriots," Su said, but as their names have been placed on a no flight list, they will have to return via charter flight.

This is to protect their health, as well as the safety of the flight crew, Su said.

All Taiwanese nationals still in Hubei are on a National Immigration Agency list, which prevents them from boarding commercial flights back to Taiwan unless they receive permission.

However, at the CECC's daily press conference on Tuesday, Chen told reporters that Taiwanese in Hubei will be free to board flights back to Taiwan, though they will have to follow the same protocol as all travelers and self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

"(With regards to the list), we did that initially not because these people are at fault and we wanted to punish them, but because the lockdown implied the situation there was especially serious," Chen said.

"If the lockdown is lifted, it means they think the situation there is the same as everywhere else, so of course they will receive the same treatment as people returning from other places," he continued.

The issue will be discussed further with the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and other related agencies, Chen said.

The conflicting remarks have caused confusion among those still in Hubei, who hope that the government can give them a concrete answer soon, as they have already been stuck for two months.

"Whether it is through a charter flight or removing us from the list, we just want to go home quickly," a group of Taiwanese still in Hubei told CNA via social media on Tuesday.

As there may be difficulties arranging a charter flight, however, the group urged the government to allow those who need to return urgently to travel back first via commercial flights.

"In these two months, we have not been able to return home to work, our children's studies are delayed and economically we face huge difficulties," they said in their message.

"We have all tested negative for the disease, and we are all healthy. We will definitely cooperate with disease prevention measures when we return to Taiwan," they said, adding that they hope the government will give them a clear answer soon.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Chang Ming-hsuan and Chiang Yi-ching)


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