Chronicle of a mandatory 14-day quarantine in Taiwan

CHEN Jiangping, Jeff de son prénom américain, a passé 14 jours en quarantaine à Taïwan pour une visite familiale. Avec son accord, nous publions aujourd’hui un extrait de son journal de quarantaine, fruit d’un isolement forcé mais voulu. Une démarche qu’il a entrepris naturellement pour documenter ce moment de vie exceptionnel dans son sens le plus strict, “qui est hors de l’ordinaire”.

Day Zero-Sunday December 20, 2020.

Arriving in the international airport in Taiwan yesterday evening (12/19), I experienced firsthand the stringent steps the government here undertakes to confine the spread of the virus that might be brought in by visitors from abroad. Everyone is required to have a local mobile number to be traced. You don’t have one? No problem. Lots of vendors work with the government to sell SIM cards at the airport at the area right before passengers reach the custom.

These vendors are courteous and efficient. Within 10 minutes, you get a brand-new sim card in your cellphone and ready to go. They have many a combo from many a provider with many a rate. I got one that gives 30-day unlimited data with 150 minutes calling time from China Telecom, which costs about 33 dollars. Pretty good deal, considering the unlimited data.

At the same area where the vendors were selling sim cards, certain government workers were also helping everyone fill out a government-required quarantine form directly on the cellphone–the addresses, mobile numbers, and such. Once that was done, I just went to the custom like before and showed the custom officer my proof of CoVid 19 test, with a negative result. The whole process was very smooth. No long lines and no long wait. My flight was supposed to land at 5:10, but the plane got to the gate at around 5;00. By 5:45, I was out, waiting for the quarantine taxi.
The line to the quarantine taxi wasn’t long either. The workers there spread some kind of disinfectant on my suitcases and backpack, then my person all over, including the bottom of my soles. The driver of the taxi was a 69 year old lady, who felt the need of mothering me by reminding me repeatedly that I am to drink a lot of water and exercise in the room during these 14 days. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the quarantine hotel, which was booked online while in Minnesota. The front desk came out to welcome me by spreading some more disinfectant on all of my belongings and me again. Well, to make her feel safe, I did not refuse. No need to check in because they got all the information about me already; in fact they charged the cost of the entire stay on my card already. So she simply told me which room to go to and off I went.

My room is on the second floor, a decent-size room facing the street. They do have good, sound-proof windows. So the room isn’t too noisy. The thing that stands out in the room most is the box of supplies, an essential collection of things that will last me 15 days:

10 tea bags
10 packs of instant coffee,
2 packs of tissue papers,
A toothbrush and a tube of tooth paste,
A scotch pad for dishes, 
25 small garbage bags,
5 packs of q-tips,
5 packs of floss sticks,
One small bag of laundry detergent powder,
One table rag.

I am to live in this room, with these supplies. Once I am in the room, they put a wooden chair in front of it. The meals will be delivered and put on the chair at the pre-set times and a text sent to my phone.

This morning, in spite of being a Sunday, an official from a local government office gave me what was described as a “care-giving” phone call at around 9:00 am. She informed me that every morning someone from her office will call to check on me; she also gave me very useful information about the numbers to call in various scenarios and if I have any questions. I feel that this should be the way the contact tracing is to be done.

I am trying to maintain a normal schedule for the next two weeks. This morning, after studying my Duolingo French lesson, I was informed that I have been studying with them for 700 days. I suppose I can brag a little, or at least encourage myself to keep it up. Today, I am to grade my final exam papers online and calculate their grades. Hopefully I can complete all the grade matters by tomorrow morning. So that is my first night in a quarantine hotel in a nutshell. Hope all my friends around the world are healthy and safe.

Après le quatrième jour, l’auteur a interrompu son travail d’écriture. Nous lui avons demandé les raisons de cet arrêt brutal, voici sa réponse : “This chronicle was doomed from the very beginning. There really isn’t a whole lot interesting to share during the quarantine. The meals, the tiny living quarter, and the rectangular view of the outside through the window on the wall, what else is there to share.”

CHEN Jiangping / Jeff