After a year of border closure to regular scheduled flights, Palau is slowly making moves to open its doors to scheduled travel, but is “Opening with Care”, a strong emphasis that President Surangel Whipps Jr. insists must be the way forward.

April 1st will mark the first day of the “sterile corridor”, or “travel bubble”, between Palau and the Republic of China, Taiwan. The process that has long been in the making seeks to ensure that all Taiwan leisure travelers can come to Palau under conditions which pose no risk of COVID import into either country.

President Whipps said that the statistics show that with current processes in place for the Taiwan travel bubble, the very slim chance of COVID coming into Palau is “1 in 4 million, or 1 in 40,000 flights”.

The plan includes PCR testing at Taiwan airport 3 hours before departure and managed and controlled movement while in Palau for Taiwan visitors. This will also start the regular twice a week flight between Taiwan and Palau.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health EOC has proposed new protocols to address incoming travelers from Guam. This will include travelers coming from other destinations through Guam to Palau. The new protocols address travelers who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and travelers who are not vaccinated.

Under the new protocols, travelers coming from Guam who are fully vaccinated will not require quarantine in government facilities, will be self-quarantined with restricted movement for 5 days and take a PCR test. Travelers who are not vaccinated will still undergo the current protocol of 2 tests prior to departure, a 14-day quarantine in a government designated facility, and two more tests at different intervals during the quarantine and after the quarantine period.

These protocols are expected to take effect after the current directive expires on April 4, 2021.

Furthermore, a body designated under Essential Air Services Directive has created a process where individuals seeking to enter Palau may apply online to travel into Palau. For interested persons, the website is www.palaugov.pw/travel.

President Whipps during a press conference implored people to be patient. He said we must “open with care”, ensuring that our people are protected.

To allay fears of some citizens who are not yet comfortable with opening Palau’s borders, Whipps said that Palau is fully prepared to handle a case should one positive case manage to come through. He said Palau’s hospital is fully equipped, with trained people and with medicines to treat people who have COVID-19 virus, including the same medicine “Trump took when he had the virus”.

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