TAIPEI (CNA) — The Indonesian representative office in Taipei said Thursday it is providing some 2,400 surgical face masks for Indonesian students and undocumented migrant workers in Taiwan in an effort to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
Of that number, 1,500 have been given to the Indonesian Students Association for distribution to students free of cost, the Indonesian Economic Trade Office (IETO) in Taipei said.
Another 900 masks will be placed at three shops in Hsinchu and Taichung cities for supply to undocumented Indonesian workers, also at no cost, the IETO said.
This is to help provide some protection to Indonesian workers who do not have a valid National Health Insurance (NHI) card, which is required to buy masks in Taiwan under the government’s current rationing system, according to IETO official Eva M. Odameng.
“We are supplying the masks because there are many Indonesian caregivers going in and out of hospitals, and we do not know if their employers are providing them with masks,” Odameng said.
She said the 2,400 masks, which arrived in Taiwan last week, were donated by Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Countermeasure.
Adi Kusmayadi, president of the Indonesian Students Association, said the masks will be distributed first to new Indonesian students who have not yet qualified to receive NHI cards.
“We are concerned about the coronavirus, especially as we have learned that the latest case is an Indonesian,” said Kusmayadi, a PhD student at Tunghai University in Taichung. “We want to make sure our students have masks to protect themselves.”
Kusmayadi was referring to the case of an undocumented Indonesian woman, who was hired to help take care of an elderly man in hospital and was confirmed Wednesday to have the COVID-19, a few days after the man was diagnosed with the virus.
There are 14,489 Indonesian students and 23,474 undocumented Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan, according to the IETO and National Immigration Agency (NIA), respectively.
Odameng said the main reasons why some Indonesian migrant workers abscond are problems with their brokers or employers, including high broker fees.
“We would like to establish contact with these undocumented workers and encourage them to go home to their families in Indonesia,” Odameng said. “Their situation in Taiwan has become even more critical because they do not have National Health Insurance coverage.”
An Indonesian who runs an eatery in Hsinchu City said police and NIA officers have been randomly stopping foreign nationals near his premises and asking them to show their Alien Resident Certificates (ARCs). Those foreign nationals who cannot produce an ARC are arrested, said the man, who asked to be identified as Benny.
Some arrests were made during the seven-day Lunar New Year holiday in January, Benny alleged.
Another Indonesian who operates a small restaurant, this one in Taichung, said undocumented Indonesian migrant workers “are good people just trying to make living.”