TAIPEI (CNA) — A Coast Guard Administration (CGA) patrol vessel that returned to Taiwan on Sunday following a month-long patrol mission in the Pacific Ocean, has brought back three Taiwanese and two Japanese nationals who were stranded in Tuvalu due to COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
The three Taiwanese are conscripts serving their alternative military service on Tuvalu, one of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies, MOFA said in a press release. The two Japanese, meanwhile, were working on Tuvalu.
According to MOFA, the ministry sent 88 conscripts to the nation’s 15 diplomatic allies in October last year.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the ministry has tried its best to bring back all 88 since June, as the conscripts had completed their service overseas, but were thwarted by border closures in many countries.
The majority of them were eventually able to return home safely except for the three in Tuvalu, it noted.
According to MOFA, the Tuvalu government closed its border in March and despite MOFA’s previous efforts, the three conscripts were unable to return to Taiwan.
In August, however, the Tuvalu authorities finally gave approval for a CGA ship that was conducting a patrol mission in the central and western Pacific to take the three off the island, it noted.
The vessel docked at Tuvalu on Aug. 21 to take aboard the three conscripts along with the two Japanese, who had sought help from the Taiwanese embassy in Tuvalu before in the hope of leaving.
After 16 days at sea, the CGA vessel returned to Taiwan early Sunday.
In a separate press release, the CGA said the vessel originally left Kaohsiung Harbor on a fishery patrol mission to the Pacific on Aug. 5.
The three Taiwanese and two Japanese who boarded the vessel passed COVID-19 rapid screenings upon boarding.
After returning to Taiwan, all the crew and passengers on the CGA vessel will have to undergo 14 days of home quarantine, plus another seven days of self-health management in accordance with the country’s epidemic control rules, the CGA added.
Meanwhile, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, which represents Tokyo’s interests in Taipei in the absence of official diplomatic ties, thanked Taiwan for its help.