A total of 82 passengers took the first of three China Airlines (CAL) flights to Taiwan from Myanmar on Sunday amid an escalation of the political turmoil there.
Flight CI7916, which departed from Taoyuan at 7 a.m. for the city of Yangon, brought 52 Taiwanese and 30 foreign nationals (including one Chinese) back at 5 p.m.
Concerning the emergency nature of the circumstances, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) allowed 28 passengers who did not hold a negative COVID-19 test result issued three days before boarding the plane to enter Taiwan by submitting an affidavit and related health declaration after landing, the Taoyuan airport said.
According to the CECC, all the passengers must undergo two-week home quarantine and must also be kept isolated from other family members.
Myanmar has seen protests across the country since Feb. 1, when the military overthrew the country's government in a coup, detaining Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected officials.
Among returning passengers was a woman surnamed Cheng (鄭), who said the situation is becoming worse in Mandalay, where she teaches.
Demonstrations take place every evening, and there are often standoffs between soldiers and citizens, Cheng said, adding that strikes and school suspensions are occurring nationwide.
Fortunately, she said, it was not difficult to book her ticket for the rescue flight and the traffic was smooth on her way to Yangon.
Another female passenger from Yangon, surnamed Hung (洪), said that while public order in the city is okay, people are afraid to go outside.
There are soldiers everywhere, and she booked her flight ticket as soon as she heard the news.
However, another male passenger, who declined to identify himself, said things are good in Myanmar and that the media has been exaggerating the situation.
He said he took the flight not to "flee" but because he had personal business to attend to.
CAL has scheduled two other flights between Yangon and Taipei for March 14 and 28.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) last week urged Taiwanese people who want to return home from Myanmar to contact CAL for details as soon as they can.
In case of emergency, they are advised to contact the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Myanmar by calling (95) 9-257-257-575.
About 1,000 Taiwan nationals live in the Southeast Asian country, mostly in Yangon, the country's largest city, according to MOFA.
Since April 2020, Myanmar has only allowed relief flights to enter and leave the country, in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
That has caused disruption to the daily round-trip flights CAL had operated between Taipei and Yangon prior to the pandemic.
According to CAL, airlines have had to adjust the number of flights to the country based on the COVID-19 situation and market demand, and as a result, its flight schedule to Myanmar differs month to month.