Taiwan extends ban on Indonesian workers, citing coronavirus surge

Taiwan is home to more than 250,000 migrant workers from Indonesia.
Taiwan is home to more than 250,000 migrant workers from Indonesia.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan's government on Wednesday (Dec 16) extended a ban on Indonesian workers coming to the island for an indefinite period, citing a surge in the number of infected people arriving and lack of cooperation from Indonesia's government in verifying documents.

Taiwan is home to more than 250,000 migrant workers from Indonesia, which has the highest tally of virus infections and deaths in South-east Asia.

They mostly work as domestic helpers.

Taiwan last month announced a two-week suspension for the entry of Indonesian workers, which the government will now extend, the Central Epidemic Command Centre said.

It did not give a date for when it would reopen entry for the workers, only that the government would make the decision depending on the pandemic situation in Indonesia.

Since the start of October, Taiwan has recorded 132 positive cases in arriving Indonesian workers, of whom 76 carried negative test results with them when they landed, the centre added.

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters that represented an unacceptable risk to the island, and that Indonesia's government was being uncooperative.

"To date the Indonesian authorities have been unwilling to cooperate in verifying the documentation," Mr Chen said, referring to the pre-arrival coronavirus tests which are now required for almost everyone arriving in Taiwan.

Some of the Indonesians who have tested positive in Taiwan did so at the end of their mandatory 14-day quarantines, and not all have had symptoms.

Mr Benny Rhamdani, the head of the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers, told Reuters they had had two meetings with their Taiwanese counterparts this month and suggested the problem may lay with Taiwan.

"It could be, it is our suspicion, that those deemed as positive got infected when the Taiwanese government gathered them, quarantined them," he said.

Indonesia may simply decide, going forward, to send its workers to other countries, Mr Rhamdani added.

Taiwan itself has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention measures, with 130 cases currently in hospital, all of which are imported cases.