Community testing last Sunday saw 1,016 COVID-19 tests conducted. People waited in line to enter the testing site and once in, despite the large number of people, the process was quick and smooth. Frontliners conducting the tests showed immense patience and dedication to their calling and to the well-being of the people.

The surging number of daily positive COVID-19 cases has led to changes in the MHHS protocols for handling positive cases, reported Minister Gaafar Uherbelau in his public briefing yesterday evening.

From now on, anyone identified to be positive for COVID-19 will self-isolate (keep him or herself away from others) for 5 days. After their Day 5 test, if negative, the person can go to work but must wear a mask and follow health safety measures. If the Day 5 test is positive, that person must self-isolate for another 5 days, for a total of 10 days.

Any close contact of a person who has been tested positive will “self-monitor” for 10 days with no testing required unless the person shows symptoms.

“The Surveillance Team of the Ministry of Health and Human Services is no longer focusing on contact tracing due to a high number of cases. They will shift their focus to monitoring the positive cases to minimize their chances of getting hospitalized,” stated Minister Uherbelau.

From January 10 until today, daily positive COVID-19 cases have reached an outbreak status with more than 10 cases a day. For the last 2 days, that number has reached over a hundred a day.

149 positive cases were identified yesterday, most of which were identified at the COVID CARE Center at Kalau Gym. 112 of the 1,016 people tested during the community testing held on Sunday showed positive COVID-19 test results. This was 11% of the total turnout.

Despite the increasing number of cases, the government is not moving to Phase 3 of the Mitigation Guidance Plan for pandemics. According to the MHHS Mitigation Guidance plan revised on October 5, 2021, Phase 3 is when the pandemic has reached a crisis level, such that there is an “increasing burden on the healthcare system with ER, inpatient, and ICU usage at or below acceptable levels.”

Actions recommended under Phase 3 include a lockdown where only essential workers can work while the public is asked to remain at home except to get essential items like food, water, and medicine. Essential workplaces will have in place proper cleaning requirements, social distancing, and protection of workers and customers. Schools and childcare centers will be closed.

Palau is still on Phase 2 of this plan, although all schools and childcare centers have been closed going into the 2nd week. 

The government has not mandated lockdown but some states and businesses have imposed full or partial lockdowns on their own.

Ngarchelong State and Ngiwal State chiefs and elected leaders have imposed traditional bul to minimize community interactions and prevent further spread of the virus within their jurisdictions. Angaur State government has issued a directive requiring travelers to Angaur to comply with health check meansures to ensure community safety.

Palau Judiciary also closed its complexes in Koror and Melekeok, placing all their employees under administrative leave until January 31st citing the growing number of COVID cases on the island.

Businesses such as Palau Royal Resort have suspended operations “until further notice” as an “initiative for keeping our establishment a safe place for everyone”, as stated in the public announcement issued by the company yesterday, Monday.

President Whipps, in a message issued yesterday calling the situation a crisis, thanked Palau’s partners, the United States government and the Republic of China (Taiwan), for the “tremendous support in this crisis”.

His message encourages people to do their part, saying, “we can get through this together.”

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