TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Coast Guard has evacuated two Japanese from Tuvalu while picking up three Taiwanese servicemen who had worked in consular services in the allied island country.
After a 16-day odyssey at sea, the five who had been stranded in Tuvalu finally came to shore in Taiwan. The Pacific island state has maintained strict border controls since March in order to keep the coronavirus at bay.
Three substitute servicemen and two Japanese who had previously worked in Tuvalu are now undergoing quarantine in hotel accommodations. The five people were picked by the Hsun Hu No. 8, a fishery patrol vessel operated by Taiwan’s Coast Guard, on Aug. 21.
The Hsun Hu No. 8 set sail in early August to patrol the Western and central Pacific, including Okinotori Island. The vessel continued to patrol in the region after fetching its passengers until it docked in Kaohsiung on Sunday (Sept. 6).
The Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association expressed gratitude to Taiwan for evacuating the Japanese nationals. “Taiwan has been a very reliable and good neighbor [to Japan] in every corner of the world,” said the association on Facebook, adding "#TaiwanCanHelp the world."
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that previous attempts to evacuate the three Taiwanese servicemen had been in vain because of the strict travel restrictions imposed by the Tuvalu authorities and neighboring countries. Tuvalu nationals, including sick individuals, have been unable to leave or enter for the past five months, and some Pacific countries have also banned the entry of anyone who is not a ship crew member, said MOFA in a statement on Sunday.
According to the ministry, the two Japanese had implored the Taiwanese embassy in Tuvalu to evacuate them from the island several times after the travel restrictions took effect. The pair, along with three Taiwanese servicemen, are the first batch of foreigners to be evacuated from Tuvalu, which has extended its border control measures to next March.