Do As You’re Told: Quarantine rules exist for a reason

I have two tales of quarantine violation and punishment, one reasonable and one inequitable and possibly racist.

First, the US, and another case of americans thinking rules don’t apply to them, or “COVID doesn’t exist”.

Skylar Mack is a university student from Georgia, US. She went to the Cayman Islands (CI) on November 27 to be with her boyfriend, a professional jetskier.

The CI has strict quarantine regulations that have kept COVID-19 under control. The CI have had only two deaths and (as I write) less than thirty active cases in a country of 66,000.

Those regulations include a mandatory two week quarantine, which includes a monitoring bracelet to track people’s location. Mack decided she was exempt from the law, intentionally removed the bracelet, and on November 29 attended her boyfriend’s competition where thousands were gathered. Responsible citizens informed the police, and she was detained. Her boyfriend was also arrested for aiding and abeting, since he knew she was supposed to be in quarantine.  Dozens of CI citizens are now in quarantine because of her selfish actions.  This was not a boating accident, it was deliberate and malicious.

The two pled guilty in court. They were expecting and initially handed a light sentence including hours of community service. This has been appealed and the two will likely spend four months in a CI prison before being deported.

U.S. college student sentenced to 4 months in prison for breaking Cayman Islands’ COVID-19 protocol

An 18-year-old college student from Georgia has been sentenced to four months in prison in the Cayman Islands after breaking the British Caribbean territory’s COVID-19 protocol while visiting her boyfriend for a jet skiing competition, according to her family.

Skylar Mack, a pre-med student at Mercer University, left for the Islands November 27 after testing negative for Covid-19 at home, her grandmother, Jeanne Mack, told CNN.

When Mack landed, she was given another COVID-19 test, which came back negative and she was told to remain in isolation for two weeks. Instead, she decided to attend her boyfriend’s jet ski competition two days later.

“In her mind, as long as she stayed away from everybody, she would be OK to go watch her friend’s race, it was their big national finals race, the last race of the year, big deal,” her grandmother said.

Race attendees, who knew Mack, reported her breach of isolation and officials arrested her.

Her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, is said to have “aided and abetted her in the breach,” the Cayman Compass newspaper reported. He was also charged with failing to comply with COVID-19 regulations, according to attorney Jonathon Hughes who represents the couple.

[. . .]

According to the family, the U.S. Embassy in the Cayman Islands told them Mack is being made an example of.

“I truly believe she needed to get in trouble, because she did something wrong. I don’t believe she needed to go to prison for four months for one breach,” Jeanne Mack said.

Her family, the US, and COVID deniers see this as an “injustice”, that the CI is making an example of them. And their point is?  She is a pre-med student who should know better, that negative tests don’t prove you don’t have COVID-19. She should be expelled from the university if this is her attitude.

In my eyes, they’re getting off lucky and should be grateful. The two will be in a warm climate during winter and flu seasons, not in danger of contracting COVID-19 during the worst months of the pandemic. They’ll get back in mid-spring, when vaccines are more likely to be available and some of the population will have been vaccinated.

Second, Taiwan’s responses to quarantine violation is raising some eyebrows.  Not just about the severity of the fine, but how different the penalties depending on who the violators are.  More below the fold.

In November, four white DJs came to Taiwan for an EDM festival and were assessed fines of NT$10,000 (US$350) after violating quarantine, spending evenings together instead of in isolation.

‘Ultra Taiwan’ wins int’l praise, but DJs fined for skipping quarantine

Taiwan’s recent “Road to Ultra: Taiwan 2020” event came to a close on Saturday. The show which featured DJs Kayzo, Vini Vici, Slander and Alesso was allowed due to Taiwan’s relative success in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, eliciting many “jealous” responses from social media users abroad.

Even though the festival was held without a hitch, the four DJs found themselves in hot water after it was revealed that they violated quarantine regulations prior to the performance. All four foreigners have been subjected to a fine of NT$10,000 per person.

[. . .]

However, his lingering feelings of happiness may be short-lived as the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) revealed on Saturday that all four DJs had violated quarantine regulations and were videoed eating together and practicing their sets in the same room. 

Compare this with December when a Filipino was assessed the full NT$100,000 fine (US$3500).  The Filipino man made a mistake and should have asked for help passing an item to his friend, but this wasn’t an egregious or reckless violation of the rules as the DJs’ actions were.  His mistake can be rectified with sanitizer and a longer quarantine for the two involved.

Filipino migrant worker fined NT$100,000 for breaking quarantine rules

A Filipino migrant worker in Kaohsiung has been fined NT$100,000 (US$3,540) for leaving his room at a quarantine hotel for eight seconds, in violation of quarantine regulations, the city’s Department of Health said Sunday.

The migrant worker, who arrived in Taiwan last month, was found to have stepped out of the hotel room for eight seconds on Nov. 13 to leave something at the door of another room for a friend who was also in quarantine on the same floor, the health department said.

The man’s actions were caught on surveillance camera, and hotel personnel reported the matter to the health authorities, the department said.

The Filipino man was fined NT$100,000 because he was in mandatory 14-day quarantine after his arrival in Taiwan and should not have left his room, the department said.

Following a recent spike in the number of imported COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, the city government has been asking hotel managers to more closely monitor guests who are in quarantine, according to the health department.

This link has hotel surveillance video of the man’s actions.  Emphasis in the above text is mine.

Since October, many migrant labourers have returned to Taiwan from Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, and elsewhere as factories resumed production.  New restrictive and selective rules have been imposed upon people from these countries.  Unless I missed government notices about it, people coming from wealthier countries with far worse rates of COVID-19 spread are not being subjected to the same restrictions.  And they are getting nicer accomodations.

I do, however, understand the ban on Indonesian migrant workers enacted this week.  Indonesia’s COVID-19 rates have been on a constant upward climb since the start of the year (except for temporary dip in new reported cases during November) and threaten to go out of control.  They’re still on the first wave.  Amongst migrant workers arriving and bringing about 300 new cases to Taiwan since May, Indonesia accounted for the largest number of them from one country.

Entry ban on Indonesian workers unrelated to politics: office

Taiwan’s representative office in Jakarta on Saturday said Taiwan’s decision to extend indefinitely an entry ban on Indonesian migrant workers was based purely on epidemic prevention considerations and not on politics.

In a statement, the Taipei Economic and Trade Office (TETO) in Jakarta said Taiwan is willing to reopen its doors to Indonesian migrant workers when the two sides come to a consensus on epidemic prevention measures.

[. . .]

According to TETO, 127 Indonesian workers who entered Taiwan tested positive for COVID-19 from Oct. 16 to Dec. 17, and 76 had presented negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) reports on arrival.

Compared to those arriving from other countries during this period, such as Vietnam and Thailand, which produced no new COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, the number coming from Indonesia is quite high, it said.

Side note: Singapore will soon be welcoming visitors from Taiwan, no quarantine necessary.  Quarantine is still mandatory in the other direction, whether Singaporeans visiting or people returning to Taiwan.