British woman released from quarantine, leaves Hualien

TAIPEI (CNA) — A British woman, who has an apprehensive mother, left Hualien County in eastern Taiwan Sunday with her Australian partner after they were released from 14 days of compulsory quarantine at a makeshift quarantine center there.

The British Office Taipei, which represents British citizens’ interests in Taiwan, picked the couple up at the center earlier than scheduled, Hualien County Health Bureau chief Chu Chia-hsiang (朱家祥) told CNA.

The bureau had planned to pick up the couple and two other German travelers at 10 a.m. but British officials came earlier and drove them off, Chu said, noting that he had no knowledge of the couple’s following movements.

The 29-year-old Natalie Dawson and her partner, Rohan Pixley, came into the media limelight in Taiwan because of a BBC report of their dissatisfaction with their conditions at a repurposed school dormitory where they were settled for the home quarantine starting March 15.

The BBC report cited Dawson’s mother as criticizing the conditions her daughter and her Australian partner were subject to, saying they were separated and “incarcerated” in “filthy” rooms with no hot water and food they described as of being of “poor quality.”

The story went viral on social media after its publication Thursday, and was pulled without explanation Friday amid a strong backlash on social media.

Dawson issued a statement Friday through the British Office Taipei apologizing for the issue, which she said had been “blown out of proportion.”

Despite having some issues with the quarantine center after her arrival, Dawson said she fully respects Taiwan’s approach to quarantine and never questioned its importance.

In response to the issue, Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Control Center, said he believes in “justice in the heart.” He did not elaborate.

Taiwan imposed the highest travel warning on all overseas destinations on March 20 amid COVID-19 pandemic, requiring people who have traveled in or who have transited through problem areas to home quarantine for 14 days.

Individuals in quarantine are forbidden to leave their places of residence for 14 days, and receive daily health checks from their ward chief.