A man in Taiwan, who was penalised for breaking COVID-19 quarantine, has been let off by Taiwanese authorities after it was discovered that he had been kidnapped by debt collectors. The peculiar incident happened in late October 2020, when the man identified only by his surname Chen, returned to Taiwan from Hong Kong.

Chen had planned to complete his mandatory 14 days home quarantine at his friend’s house in Nantou county. However, things went downhill the next day when few men identified as debt collectors forced their way into his friend’s house, mistook him for his friend who owed them money, assaulted Chen and abducted him.

According to the justice ministry last week, the kidnappers then took Chen to his own house to collect the money and then returned to the friend’s house in Nantou county, the Guardian reports.

Taiwan’s quarantine system has strict regulations to enforce its quarantine rules and includes electronic monitoring through phone signals. Any person found breaching those rules can be fined up to 300,000 ((£7,833) new Taiwan dollars. It is still unclear how the police knew that he had left the quarantine.

Chen was arrested and fined 100,000 new Taiwan dollars (£2,600) for violation of the quarantine rules. The amount however was revoked after Chen’s explanation was investigated and confirmed that he was forced to leave quarantine against his will.

This is the first case that Taiwanese authorities have reversed the fine for breaching quarantine rules since the global pandemic started, according to the Guardian.

In a statement by Hu Tianci, a spokesperson for the Changhua branch of administrative enforce agency, said that the violation of the quarantine “was not caused by his own intentional or negligent behavior…. According to the law, such behavior should not be punished and should be referred to the health unit for withdrawal.”

The maximum fine of 300,000 NTD (£7,833) was imposed in December 2020 on a foreign pilot who flew between Taiwan and US, and was responsible for Taiwan’s first community transmission case of coronavirus after the world’s leading run of 253 days since its last local Covid-19 infection.

A woman in her 30s had tested positive after she had come in close contact with the pilot. The pilot, a New Zealander in his 60s working for a Taiwanese airline, was accused of not ‘truthfully declaring’ his contacts and activities, said health minister, Chen Shih-chung. In another statement by health authorities, it was stated that he had contracted the virus in the US. The pilot then flew three more times between US and Taiwan and moved around Taipei while infectious.