BBC pulls controversial story on British woman in Taiwan

Photo courtesy of Hualien County Health Bureau

TAIPEI / LONDON (CNA) — The BBC has pulled a story saying that a British woman was being “incarcerated” in quarantine in Taiwan amid the global new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, a story that was apparently written without the woman’s knowledge.

The story quickly went viral on social media after it was published Thursday, but the BBC pulled the story early Friday morning Taiwan time without any explanation after it faced a strong backlash on social media.

It’s depiction of the conditions Natalie Dawson faced while quarantined at a repurposed school dormitory in Hualien was entirely based on her mother’s account, which was disputed by Taiwanese officials.

CNA has tried without success to contact Dawson, and the Hualien County Health Bureau, which has met with her, said it would not be convenient to contact her while she was in quarantine.

It did release a text message from Dawson with her permission in which she expressed regret over the incident but said she had no idea a story was being done.

“I’m sure you have seen the BBC. I am sorry if you have read it. I didn’t know anything about it until today,” she told the health bureau.

“I appreciate what you have done for myself and Rohan and I can only apologize. I am doing what I can to get it taken down as soon as possible.”

She is in quarantine in separate quarters with her Australian partner Rohan Pixley after the two arrived in Taiwan on March 14 for a stop in Taiwan before heading on to Australia and were required to go into quarantine for 14 days.

Chung Mei-chu (鍾美珠), the health bureau’s deputy chief, said Friday the two are scheduled to be released from quarantine on Saturday at precisely 11:59 p.m.

Due to the late hour at which they are to be released and the long distance between the quarantine facility and downtown Hualien, health officials will drop them off at the Hualien train station, she said.

The bureau will also explain to her how to seek government compensation of NT$1,000 per day for the period spent in quarantine.

According to Chu, individuals, whether Taiwanese or foreign nationals, subject to home isolation or home quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are entitled to monetary compensation for the constraints on their movements.