UPDATE: March 27, 2020, 8:30 p.m.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A foreign couple under quarantine in Hualien recently caused a media stir, leading the woman to apologize to a local health official Friday (March 27) for the trouble they have caused. Meanwhile, the government's epidemic prevention body has decided not to pay them compensation for their stay.
A British woman and her Australian boyfriend chose to stay at a makeshift quarantine center instead of a paid hotel for their self-quarantines after arriving in eastern Taiwan's Hualien County on March 18. The woman complained to her mother, identified as Jill Weaver, over the phone about the "prison-like conditions" and ill treatment she received at the quarantine center. The mother then took the information to the BBC, and soon the story became news.
However, the story enraged many for not conforming to the facts. Officials at the quarantine center explained the situation and showed pictures of the room where the woman stayed. The picture shows a spacious room equipped with two couches, one bed, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a desk, a dressing table, two chairs, a hairdryer, and a telephone.
(Hualien Health Bureau Photo)
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its regret that the story was able to run without verification. In response to feedback, the BBC took the story down the next day.
On Friday, the woman, who is still under a 14-day quarantine, sent a text message to a local health official, saying she was unaware of the story carrying her mother's false claim "until today." She conveyed her apologies for the fiasco:
Hi. I'm sure you have seen the BBC. I am sorry if you have read it. I didn't know anything about it until today. I appreciate what you have done for myself and Rohan and I can only apologise. I am doing what I can to get it taken down as soon as possible.
The health official responded to the woman with a warm message, which read: "We'll (continue) to take care of you. Don't worry."
Hualien Health Bureau Deputy Director Chung Mei-chu (鍾美珠) said that the couple will be discharged from the quarantine center on Sunday morning (March 29) and that the bureau's staff will see them off at the Hualien train station.
In Taiwan, people who arrange to stay in the quarantine center will only be charged for meals, which cost only NT$250 (US$8.28) per day. The well-equipped accommodation is free of charge, with simple housekeeping offered for free as well. A French man under quarantine on March 23 showed a picture of a pile of snacks along with a couple of masks and beverages on an online forum, saying he received these in addition to his daily meals. He is happy with the assistance provided by the Taiwanese government.
(Screenshot of Nicolas Caffin's post on Communauté française à Taiwan)
In Taiwan, those who are discharged from quarantine can apply for a grant of NT$1,000 (US$33.08) per day. Each can claim a maximum of 14 days worth of compensation. The rule also normally applies to foreigners such as the couple in question, the official said.
However, because the BBC story damaged Taiwan's international image, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced Friday evening it would not pay them the daily NT$1,000 sum. In addition, their attitude could also damage the country's quarantine efforts, CNA quoted the CECC as saying, as their complaints might give rise to members of the public refusing to respect quarantine measures.