A British woman and her Australian partner who, according to a BBC report, complained that being quarantined in Taiwan was like being “incarcerated” would not be receiving government compensation for their time in quarantine, as they provided false information to the media, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday.
The false information negatively affected the nation’s image and might make people unwilling to comply with quarantine requirements, which would negatively affect the government’s COVID-19 containment efforts, the center said in a statement, adding that the couple might have breached the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法).
Natalie Dawson and Rohan Pixley arrived in Taiwan on March 14 as they transited on a flight to Australia, but were forced into a 14-day quarantine. They have been in separate quarters since then.
Photo courtesy of Hualien County Health Bureau
The BBC on Wednesday quoted Dawson’s mother as saying that her daughter and Pixley had been separated and “incarcerated,” and that their living conditions were poor.
The story went viral on social media, but the BBC pulled the story on Thursday without explanation after it faced a strong backlash online.
The depiction of the conditions that the couple experienced while quarantined at a repurposed school dormitory in Hualien was apparently based on her mother’s account, which Taiwanese authorities have disputed.
Earlier yesterday, the Hualien County Health Bureau released a text message with Dawson’s permission in which she expressed regret over the incident, saying that she had no idea that a report was being written.
“I didn’t know anything about it until today. I appreciate what you have done for myself and Rohan and I can only apologize,” she wrote.
The two are scheduled to be released from quarantine today at 11:59pm, bureau Deputy Director Chung Mei-chu (鍾美珠) said.
The regulations state that individuals, whether Taiwanese or foreign nationals, subject to home isolation or home quarantine for 14 days are entitled to NT$1,000 per day as compensation for having their movement restricted.
Taiwanese reacted to the report mostly with anger.
Even before the CECC’s statement yesterday afternoon, there were calls for the government to not offer the couple compensation.
A New Taipei City resident surnamed Hsu (徐) yesterday said that she was opposed to the couple receiving compensation, adding that the quarantine facility only asks for NT$250 per day — which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner — while the cheapest hostel in Hualien County costs NT$400 per day.
Instead of complaining about poor conditions to her mother, the couple should have asked her to send money for a top-rated hotel, Hsu said.
A Taipei resident surnamed Yang (楊) said that the government should not only refuse them compensation, but should demand compensation from them for tarnishing the nation’s international image.
However, a Taipei resident surnamed Yen (顏) said that the couple should be compensated, if they meet the requirements, as it is granted by law.
The complaints involved “personal issues,” but Taiwan should uphold the law, Yen said.
As the couple is residing in government-provided quarters, their eligibility for the compensation might be questioned, Yen said.
National Taiwan University professor of law Ku Chung-ming (辜仲明) said that compensation should only be used to cover the losses and expenses of Taiwanese, not foreign nationals.
Under the act, the couple could face a fine for spreading false information, Ku said.
National Parent Education Volunteer Association director-general Wu Fu-pin (吳福濱) called on the government to amend the regulations so that there is a legal basis for refusing to compensate foreign nationals who spread false information.
The couple, who have not shouldered any of the quarantine expenses, abused Taiwanese hospitality and potentially exposed members of the public to the coronavirus, Wu said.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that the BBC’s report was not based on facts, but more likely on an emotional reaction.
Taiwan treats everyone with equality and goodwill, including foreigners, he said, adding that this would definitely pass the test of public scrutiny.
Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan and Sean Lin
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