The first group of Taiwanese returning home from Turkey since Ankara lifted its two-month ban on international flights on June 11 were expected to arrive last night.
The 28-strong group of students studying in Turkey, tourists and businesspeople, took off from Istanbul on a Qatar Airways flight on Monday night and made stops in Doha and Hong Kong.
When the flight ban was first imposed, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Mission in Ankara received requests from Taiwanese to help them return home.
Photo: Screen grab from the Facebook page of Taiwan in Turkey
Employees at the Ankara office said they had contacted Turkish Airlines about the possibility of a charter flight at that time, but since fewer than 30 people had applied, the airline declined due to the cost.
Earlier this month, the office tried to reserve seats on a charter flight that Japan was organizing for its citizens, but the plan fell through after Turkish Airlines moved the flight up a day, which would have left the Taiwanese with no connecting flight home from Tokyo.
One of the returning travelers, identified only by her English first name Ariel, had planned to travel in Turkey for three weeks in March before starting a new job.
When the Tainan resident left on her trip, Ankara had not reported any cases of COVID-19 nor had any Taiwanese returning from trips to Turkey been confirmed to have the disease.
However, the flight ban imposed in late March left her stranded, and she ran out of her allergy medication as a result, she said.
However, she was able to contact a hospital in Istanbul through a local friend, and received the medicine she needed after three appointments with a doctor via Skype, she said.
A Soochow University student identified as Michelle went to Turkey on an exchange program at the Middle East Technical University.
Although she was unable to travel around Turkey, Michelle said she was still able to learn about the local culture through her Turkish roommate, Dilay, who cooked local dishes for her and shared local customs.
Before Turkey’s flight ban was implemented, 17 Taiwanese who had been on tour group trips to the country tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home.
Turkey has reported 188,897 cases of COVID-19, with 4,974 deaths, the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard showed yesterday.
As with all other arrivals in Taiwan, the group returning from Turkey face a 14-day quarantine period before they can return to their homes.
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