Taiwanese in Milan want charter flight to go home: businessman

Milan, Italy (Photo by Anadolu Agency)
Milan, Italy (Photo by Anadolu Agency)

ROME (CNA) — With cities in northern Italy locked down under quarantine rules aimed at preventing further spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Taiwanese expatriates in Milan are hoping Taiwan’s government will send charter flights to take them home, a Taiwanese businessman said on Monday.

Jeff Lai (賴天福), chairman of the Taiwanese business association in Milan, said many Taiwanese businesspeople and their family members in northern Italy are very nervous about the situation there.

As of Monday morning, the total number of infections had risen to 7,424 in Italy, with 366 deaths, making the European country the hardest-hit outside China.

Lai called on Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) to visit Italy and share Taiwan’s experience in fighting the virus with Italian officials.

To combat the spread of the virus, Lai said he has asked Taiwanese employees in his company to vigorously observe a set of virus-prevention standard operating procedures when they come into the office or go shopping in the markets.

In addition to trying to prevent the virus spreading to themselves and their workers, many Taiwanese companies in Italy are also struggling to keep their companies operating, according to Lai.

He said he learned from a video conference on Sunday with some Taiwanese businessmen operating in northern Italy that they are facing a component supply shortage as suppliers in China are postponing their deliveries due to the impact from the disease.

Many of these Taiwanese businesspeople have been forced to suspend operations while still having to pay their employees, resulting in big losses to their companies, Lai said.

If the situation continues to worsen, they might need to ask their employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave, Lai said.

Around 50 enterprises are run by Taiwanese people in northern Italy, with most of them operating in the machinery, tourism, food/beverage and marine or air transportation sectors.

Due to Milan being in lockdown, people in the area need permission to travel outside, Lai said, explaining that this was why Taiwanese expatriates there need Taiwan’s government to arrange charter flights to evacuate them.