Over 200 Taiwanese stranded in Wuhan return to Taiwan

TAIPEI (CNA) — More than 200 Taiwanese nationals arrived at Taoyuan International Airport from Wuhan at around 11:40 p.m. Monday in the first evacuation of Taiwanese from the city at the center of a serious coronavirus epidemic.

The passengers, mostly businesspeople who had been stuck in Wuhan after the city was sealed off to contain the spread of the virus, arrived on a charter flight flown by China Eastern Airlines.

The charter flight had previously been scheduled to depart from Wuhan Tienhe International Airport at around 6:50 p.m., but was delayed to around 9:40 p.m. due to the cumbersome process of checking each person’s personal information, local media reported.

After arriving at the Taoyuan Airport, the evacuees will be examined in a provisional facility set up on the airport’s aircraft maintenance area to determine if they have any symptoms of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), according to Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Those who display symptoms will be immediately sent to hospitals while those showing no symptoms will be isolated for 14 days in single rooms at as yet unspecified venues to prevent them coming into contact with local residents, the CDC said.

The airfare for the flight on the Airbus 330 was 1,200 Chinese yuan (US$171), a sum the Taiwanese were happy to pay as their situation in Wuhan was becoming increasingly dire, especially the lack of access to medical resources.

Hsu Cheng-wen (徐正文), head of the Parents Association in Taipei who was involved in coordinating efforts to bring these people home, told CNA that a second flight to evacuate more Taiwanese in China, including from cities other than Wuhan, is scheduled for Wednesday.

A third charter flight could also be arranged if necessary, Hsu said.

As of Monday, the death toll from the Wuhan coronavirus had increased to at least 361 in China, exceeding its total fatalities during the SARS crisis that broke out in Guangdong province in 2002.

The coronavirus outbreak, which started at the end of last year in Wuhan, has killed at least 362 people and infected more than 17,300 globally.

The only death from the virus that reported outside of China occurred in the Philippines.