Foreign passengers caught unawares by Taiwan entry ban

A French national (left) arrives at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport early Thursday morning. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — A French national who made a visa run to Singapore has been barred from entering Taiwan’s main airport, following a new border control restriction against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which took effect nationwide Thursday while he was on a return flight to Taiwan.

The man said the visa run was so that he could prolong his visit in Taiwan, as his 90-day visa-free entry was about to expire.

According to the website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA), Taiwan currently offers visa-exempt entry with duration of up to 90 days to visitors from the United States, as well as people from Europe, such as France and the United Kingdom.

The French tourist said the new travel restriction came totally out of the blue and complained that all of his belongings are at a friend’s house and that he left for Singapore only a few days ago with light luggage, assuming that he would return to Taiwan soon.

Meanwhile, another foreign national from the United Kingdom, who also arrived from the Southeast Asian country early Thursday, expressed relief that he was allowed to enter, also citing that he was unaware of the border control regulation.

The traveler, who is married to a Taiwanese and currently resides in Taiwan, left London Tuesday on a British Airways flight for Singapore, before transiting via a Jetstar plane to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

“My baby is here, and my wife is here,” he told reporters upon his arrival at Taiwan’s main gateway.

In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Wednesday that foreign nationals are not allowed to visit Taiwan using a visitor visa or landing visa beginning 12 a.m. March 19.

The only foreign nationals allowed entry are those who hold Alien Resident Certificates (ARCs), or documents proving they are in Taiwan for diplomatic or other official purposes, or to fulfill business contracts, as well as those who have received special permits.

Meanwhile, all incoming passengers, whether they are Taiwanese or foreign nationals, will be required to be quarantined at home for 14 days, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

The government announcement came just hours after Taiwan on Wednesday confirmed 23 new COVID-19 cases, 21 of which originated overseas, bringing the total of infected in the country to 100.