CORONAVIRUS/Church hands out masks to migrant fishermen after receiving donation

Taipei,  Saint Christopher’s Church in Taipei distributed hundreds of medical face masks to migrant fishermen in Yilan fishing ports on Saturday after receiving a donation from Taiwan’s foreign ministry, according to an assistant parish priest.

Volunteers and priests from the church handed out 600 masks and about 40 small bottles of hand sanitizer to migrant fishermen in the county’s major fishing port of Nanfang’ao and nearby Wushi Harbor, Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet told the Central News Agency that day.

The masks and hand sanitizer were part of a donation of 3,000 masks and 11 one-liter hand sanitizer bottles from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) given to Stella Maris chaplains and coordinators in the country that serve migrant fishermen, Thiet said.

“Taiwan can help, which means no one is excluded. That means even migrant workers in the fishing industry, who are usually sidelined from mainstream society, receive support from MOFA,” Thiet said.

The donation came at a time when migrant fishermen in Yilan have faced difficulty obtaining masks, used to combat the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), under Taiwan’s government rationing system in recent months.

Indonesian fishermen Kholik But and Samsul Arifin said they have been unable to purchase masks because of the long lines outside pharmacies.

“If we spend too much time lining up our employer will get mad at us for not working,” they said.

In order to cope, their employer gives them a small box of masks, which are shared among four to five people on their boat, they said, adding that they end up wearing the same mask for a long period of time.

Also pointing out the difficulty in buying masks when they are busy, Bryan Cayetano, a Filipino fishermen said his broker gives him two masks per month when he receives his salary.

Meanwhile, Noeme Fajardo, another Filipino fishermen in Yilan said his employer does not give him any masks and he had to beg a pharmacy to sell him a mask because he needed to travel on a bus from Nanfang’ao to Lotung to look after his cousin who was suffering from abdominal pain.

Taiwan implemented a regulation on April 3 that all users of public transport must wear facial masks or risk a maximum fine of NT$15,000 (US$501).

In order to help Fajardo and other migrant fishermen overcome these difficulties, church parishioners have lined up on their behalf or donated their own masks, Thiet said, adding that Saturday was the third time they handed out masks to help migrant fishermen in Yilan since the start of the pandemic.

MOFA could not confirm the donations, explaining that they “do not usually confirm detailed donations to NGOs.”

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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