Coronavirus: Taiwan slams nations that include it in travel ban against China

People wearing masks as protection from the coronavirus board a train in Taipei, Taiwan, on Feb 10, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI • Taiwan yesterday hit out at countries that "confuse" it with China after the Philippines became the latest to impose a travel ban on the island over the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Despite its cultural links and close proximity to China, Taiwan moved swiftly against the outbreak and currently has just 18 confirmed cases of the new virus.

But the self-ruled democracy has found itself increasingly caught up in travel restrictions aimed at China, where the outbreak has killed more than 1,000 people and infected over 42,000. Late on Monday, the Philippines confirmed its current travel ban for China was being expanded to Taiwan under the "one China" policy.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry yesterday described that decision as "wrong and unilateral".

"To confuse Taiwan with China has caused troubles for our side and in the international community," Foreign Ministry spokesman Joanne Ou told reporters.

The Philippines has so far not enacted any travel bans to countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Thailand, even though they have more confirmed infections than Taiwan.

In recent years Beijing has pursued its "one China" view more aggressively, freezing Taiwan out of international bodies and pressuring businesses to list the island as part of China. The coronavirus outbreak has vividly illustrated this isolation, with Taiwan the only place currently experiencing an outbreak that is not a part of the World Health Organisation.

As the virus has spread, some countries have included Taiwan in their own China travel bans. Italy has banned flights by Taiwanese carriers and Bangladesh has stopped Taiwanese travellers from entering, while Mongolia initially enacted a ban, then said it would review visa applications on a case-by-case basis.

Taiwan said it would continue to communicate with Manila and that it had persuaded some countries, including South Korea, Vietnam and Jordan, to lift travel restrictions.

Taiwan's government yesterday raised its own travel warnings, advising people not to visit Hong Kong or Macau unless they have to, and to take precautions if going to Singapore or Thailand.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Taiwan slams nations that include it in travel ban against China. Subscribe