94 Taiwanese, 2 spouses return home after being stranded in Russia

Returning Taiwanese nationals wait to board a bus that will take them to a designated quarantine center.

TAIPEI (CNA) — A total of 94 Taiwanese nationals, along with two Russian spouses, arrived in Taiwan Tuesday after being stranded in Russia for months due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The number of coronavirus patients in Russia increased sharply in March. To date, the country has reported over 350,000 confirmed cases with more than 3,600 deaths, prompting some Taiwanese nationals living there opting to return home.

However, they had been prevented from doing so due to the unavailability of flights between Taiwan and Russia amid the pandemic.

The 96 passengers, most of them students and businessmen, arrived at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and immediately quarantined for 14 days in accordance with the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) instructions.

Among them, nine said in their health declaration that they had exhibited respiratory symptoms over the past two weeks, according to airport personnel.

Joanne Ou (歐江安), spokeswoman of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said earlier in the day during a press briefing that the 96 passengers boarded a Japan Airlines flight in Moscow Monday for Tokyo, then took a transit flight to Taiwan.

She expressed the government’s appreciation to Japan for its assistance.

Japan Airlines agreed in mid-May to dispatch a charter flight to Moscow to pick up the 94 Taiwanese, the two Russian spouses and 47 Japanese nationals who also wished to leave, according to Ou.

Meanwhile, Yoshihide Suga (菅義偉), Japan’s chief cabinet secretary and cabinet spokesman, told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday that the charter plane mission was a good example of cross-border cooperation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.