Foreign offices in Taiwan support border control measures

Filip Grzegorzewski, chief of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) in Taiwan.

Filip Grzegorzewski, chief of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) in Taiwan. (CNA photo)

Several foreign representative offices in Taiwan have expressed support for Taiwan's strict border control measures, which took effect Thursday (March 19), saying they understand the need for such actions to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease.

Filip Grzegorzewski, head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO), told CNA that similar measures have been taken in Europe to temporarily prohibit travelers from entering the 26 countries in the Schengen area.

"In order to stop the spread of the virus, we need to limit the movement of people," he said, when asked to comment on Taiwan's entry ban on almost all foreign nationals. "These actions must be coordinated across the globe to be effective."

Grzegorzewski also said Taiwan and the European Union are working together on aspects of the battle against COVID-19.

"To counter a global crisis, we need global solidarity and compassion," he said. "The EU and Taiwan are looking into ways to combat the disease together, such as collaboration on research for a rapid test and vaccine."

On March 18, Grzegorzewski tweeted that the EU and Taiwan's Academia Sinica were working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and a test that could give the results in 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, the German Institute Taipei said Thursday that while Taiwan's new travel restrictions are tough and will affect many German citizens, such measures are necessary to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

"Lately, we have seen a sharp rise in cases in Taiwan -- basically all of them imported from Europe and other areas," the German Institute said. "Taiwan has to fight the second wave."

Taiwan has been doing an excellent job in keeping situation under control, it said.

At midnight Wednesday, Taiwan implemented a ban on the entry of most foreign nationals and mandated that those with visitors' visas and on visa-free visits will have to leave the country when their stay expires, as no extensions will be allowed.

As a result, some German nationals are facing problems, the German Institute said, citing the plight of some who are confined to home quarantine, even as their visa-free entry period is about to expire, and short-term students who do not qualify for an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC).

Others are struggling to find flights out of the country amid many flight cancellations, the office said.

"We are providing advice and trust the Taiwanese authorities to provide assistance to those in need," the office said, adding that Germany has not completely closed its borders and it is still possible for its nationals to return home.

Angelito Banayo, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), said the Taiwan government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is both "understandable and should be supported."

"We also juxtapose the fact that the Ministry of Labor has asked private employers to extend the work contracts of (migrant) workers here whose job contracts have or are about to expire," Banayo said.

The Canadian Trade Office in Taipei said it has confidence in Taiwan's ability to manage the COVID-19 outbreak and to keep everyone as safe as possible.

The office said it is providing all Canadians with the latest COVID-19 information from both the Taiwanese and Canadian governments.

According to the office, some of the estimated 60,000 Canadian citizens in Taiwan will be returning home over the next few weeks.

Also responding to CNA on the issue, the Moscow-Taipei Coordination Commission on Economic and Cultural Cooperation (MTC) said it understands that the drastic measures being taken in Taiwan are urgent and necessary in order to protect everyone.

The MTC is in close contact with Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Immigration Agency, said Sergey Chudodeev, MTC consular section chief.

"We are grateful to them for the cooperation, for keeping us informed and do hope that at this challenging time we can count on them in helping every Russian citizen who needs assistance while staying or leaving Taiwan, as well as those with visa issues," he said.