A father and son who spent two months in quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, followed by self-isolation at home in Kaohsiung, have a simple message for the approximately 50,000 Taiwanese under home quarantine: Stay at home — your cooperation could save lives.
Mai Wen-ta (麥文達), 85, and Mai Chia-shuo (麥家碩), 49, recounted their COVID-19 experience and explained why they think such public health measures are necessary.
The pair’s ordeal began on Jan. 20 when they set sail from Yokohama, Japan, on the Diamond Princess.
Photo courtesy of the Taichung City Seaport Art Center
The ship, carrying 3,711 passengers and crew, including 24 Taiwanese, stopped in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa.
However, on Feb. 4, it was quarantined in Yokohama Harbor, after it emerged that a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong had tested positive for the virus.
As Japanese authorities began testing passengers, the father and son were told to remain in their small, windowless cabin.
After only three days in the room, Mai Chia-shuo said he began feeling an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, which he described as “like being stuck inside a coffin.”
To cope with the isolation, they watched a livestream of the view outside the ship on their television, while friends on board whose cabins had a balcony sent them daily photographs of the sun.
However, within days Mai Wen-ta had nosebleeds and began coughing up blood. They reported his symptoms to health authorities aboard the ship, but were told he would have to remain in quarantine unless he had a fever.
At that point, “my main concern was getting my father off the ship” to get treatment, Mai Chia-shuo said.
On Feb. 10, he wrote an open letter to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in which he described his father’s deteriorating health and pleaded for help.
The government responded by arranging for doctors to treat Mai Wen-ta and test him for the virus.
Both father and son were diagnosed with COVID-19 — on Feb. 13 and Feb. 17 respectively — and were treated at Japanese hospitals.
After they were cleared of the virus, the pair returned to Taiwan on March 10, where they underwent another 14 days of self-health management to ensure that they posed no risk to the community.
Having come through the experience, Mai Chia-shuo spoke of his frustration at seeing news reports about people ignoring their quarantine orders.
Such precautions are worth the sacrifice, he said, which is why he stayed home, despite testing negative, and missed out on long-awaited reunions with family and friends.
“Stay at home to protect yourself and protect others — that is the best thing you can do,” he said.
In other developments, a British woman yesterday left Hualien County with her Australian partner after they were released from 14 days of compulsory quarantine.
Natalie Dawson and her partner, Rohan Pixley, came into the media limelight in Taiwan because of a BBC report that said they were dissatisfied with conditions at a repurposed school dormitory where they were settled for quarantine starting on March 15.
The BBC report cited Dawson’s mother as criticizing the conditions her daughter and Pixley 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, and was on Thursday pulled without explanation amid a strong backlash on social media.
Dawson on Friday issued a statement apologizing for the issue.
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