Taiwan bans 8,000 returning students from HK and Macau

Top News | Amy Nip 11 Feb 2020

Around 8,000 students from Hong Kong and Macau who study in Taiwan have been banned from entering the island starting today, as its government further tightens travel policies targeting the novel coronavirus.

The decision was announced by the Mainland Affairs Council yesterday.

Starting midnight, only Hong Kong and Macau residents who are on business trips or deployed to Taiwan for work will be allowed to enter the island. Also exempt are spouses of Taiwanese people who have already secured the related permits and their underage children.

Everyone else, including Hong Kong and Macau students who have yet to return to Taiwan following the Lunar New Year break, have been barred from entering.

The council's deputy minister Chen Ming-chi said the decision was made based on the continued spread of the novel coronavirus on the mainland and a worsening of the situation in Guangdong.

"The risk of community infections in Hong Kong and Macau cannot be ruled out. People are also concerned about whether [Taiwan] has enough capacity to handle the disease. We are prioritizing disease prevention," Chen said yesterday.

The latest development came after Taiwan's decision on Friday to stop issuing entry permits to Hong Kong and Macau residents upon arrival. Online applications were also suspended.

Those who have already secured approval to enter Taiwan can do so on the condition that they be quarantined for 14 days at home or in hotels.

The same condition also applies to Hong Kong students who are already in Taiwan.

Taiwan's education minister Pan Wen-chung said the ban is expected to affect 7,972 students from Hong Kong and Macau who have yet to return to Taiwan after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Another 2,872 students who arrived in Taiwan before the new policy will be quarantined for 14 days.

Affected students will have the option of learning from online videos to continue their studies, he said.

To reduce the impact on students from Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland, the ministry will allow schools to adopt flexible policies when it comes to attending certain classes and the number of credits required to finish the school year.

The education ministry will also subsidize schools for additional costs incurred.

Taiwan has gradually tightened travel restrictions from banning tourists from mainland, to all foreign nationals who had been to China during the past 14 days, culminating in most visitors from the whole of China, including Hong Kong and Macau, being banned.

Airlines have canceled flights between Hong Kong and Taiwan. Cathay Pacific offers free refunds for cancellation of bookings made on or before February 8 for travel from February 8 to March 31.

There have been 18 confirmed cases in Taiwan. Authorities announced yesterday that a second patient has recovered and could be discharged as soon as this week.

As for Taiwanese who returned home on charter flights, six out of 247 were sent to hospitals with symptoms, and one case was diagnosed.

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