A coast guard vessel yesterday brought back three Taiwanese and two Japanese who were stranded on Tuvalu due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The Taiwanese are conscripts who served their alternative military service in Tuvalu, one of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies, while the Japanese were working in the Pacific island nation, it said.
Taiwan sent 88 conscripts to its diplomatic allies in October last year, the ministry said.
The conscripts concluded their service in June, and the ministry has since been bringing them back home, but some of them could not return due to border closures, it said.
It had eventually brought back all of the conscripts except the three in Tuvalu, it added.
The Tuvaluan government closed its borders in March and all previous efforts to repatriate the three conscripts failed, the ministry said.
However, Tuvaluan authorities last month gave approval for the Taiwanese coast guard vessel, which was on a patrol mission in the central and western Pacific, to pick up the conscripts.
The vessel arrived in Tuvalu on Aug. 21, and picked up the three conscripts along with the two Japanese, who had sought help from the Taiwanese embassy in Tuvalu.
The Coast Guard Administration in a news release said that the vessel had left Kaohsiung Harbor on Aug. 5 for a month-long fisheries patrol mission.
The five passengers underwent rapid COVID-19 testing upon boarding the vessel, it said.
Following their arrival, the vessel’s crew and passengers have been ordered to undergo home quarantine for 14 days, as well as seven days of self-health management in accordance with Taiwan’s epidemic control rules, the agency said.
The Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, which represents Tokyo’s interests in Taipei in the absence of official diplomatic ties, thanked Taiwan for its help.
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