New quarantine measures for far-sea fishermen due next week

CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — A stricter set of quarantine measures for returning far-sea fishermen will go into effect on May 18, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Thursday.

The new measures, which were announced on May 1, require workers on far-sea fishing boats to undergo a 14-day period of mandatory quarantine on returning to Taiwan, either in individual rooms on their vessels or at a quarantine hotel, according to the CECC.

Only workers on ships that for the duration of their journey do not dock at any ports, undergo no crew changes, are not inspected at sea, or do not transfer their cargo to other ships, are exempted from this requirement.

A previous version of the regulation rolled out in April only required ships to meet the above conditions for the month prior to their return.

However, many employers have pointed out that far-sea fishing vessels are often at sea for over six months, and rely on other ships to provide necessities and help bring their catch to port, which means quarantine is all but certain.

As most of these workers are migrants and there is a lack of space on fishing vessels to quarantine the crew safely, employers will have to pay for their stay at quarantine hotels.

This could end up costing employers up to NT$1 million (US$33,150) if they have a 50-man crew, said Taiwan Squid Fishery Association President Lei Tzu-kang (雷祖綱).

A total of 77 squid fishing boats carrying around 4,000 workers are due to return to Taiwan in June and July, Lei added.

Another concern that employers have is the number of rooms available at quarantine hotels.

According to Ho Shih-chieh (何世杰), secretary-general of the Taiwan Tuna Longline Association, most squid fishing boats dock at Qianzhen Fish Port in the southern city of Kaohsiung, a city that has only 900 rooms available at quarantine hotels.

Pingtung County, where most tuna fishing boats dock, only has 200 such rooms available, Ho said.

After a meeting with the Fisheries Agency on Thursday, CECC Deputy Commander Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥) said that Kaohsiung City government will have to help local hotels increase capacity to 2,000 rooms.

If that fails to meet demand, workers will be able to stay at centralized quarantine centers, Chen said.

Pingtung County and eastern Yilan County, where some far-sea fishing boats dock, will also have to boost the capacity at quarantine hotels, Chen said.

As for employers’ concerns about expense, Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Wang Cheng-fang (王正芳) said they will continue to discuss the issue of subsidies.