Former Health Minister Emais Roberts urged the government to prioritize people’s health over the economy, adding that Palau “dodged a bullet” as Taiwan now grapples with rising COVID-19 cases.
“I also was telling EOC to advise the leadership to wait at least until we complete vaccination. That would be the closest to Covid safe as we can be. Even then we really can’t open up too quickly unless the nations around us get vaccinated. We see a second and third wave of Covid 19 which is much severe. Palau is only Covid safe because we are Covid free,” Dr. Roberts said when asked about the Taiwan situation by Island Times and how it will affect Palau.
He said that while the nation may be on track to achieving complete vaccination, there is still a small risk of infection, especially when other neighboring nations are not vaccinated.
“Trying to open up the economy in the middle of the deteriorating situation around us is not something I agree with. Taiwan bubble is a mute issue now. Now the question is what are risks our leaders are planning to take in the name of the economy at the expense of our health,” he said.
China Airlines announced on Friday that it is canceling all flights to Palau until June 15, as Taiwan domestic cases of COVID-19 surges.
The flight cancellation affects Palau and Taiwan’s travel bubble which started on April 1. While the inaugural flight was much celebrated with 110 tourists, demand has dwindled since then due to the high cost of the trip, expensive COVID testings, and strict safety protocols.
Before China Airlines announced the flight cancellation, there were 30 tourists from Taiwan who entered Palau on May 8, all tourists left the country on May 12, according to the Palau Visitors Authority(PVA).
Taiwan which was a success story in curbing COVID-19 cases is now struggling with rising cases. Starting on Wednesday, the nation will temporarily close its borders to foreigners.
“On May 17, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that due to the surges in the number of COVID-19 cases in Taiwan and other countries, Taiwan would implement new entry restrictions and measures,” the CECC said in a press release.
Transit travelers will also be restricted from entering the country starting Wednesday.
As of yesterday, the CECC, on their website said there are 335 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Taiwan. Of the 335 new cases, 333 are indigenous and the other two are imported.
Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Deputy Incident Commander Gaafar Uherbelau said that Taiwan COVID situation will be discussed in a meeting this Wednesday.
Dr. Roberts said Palau should listen to the experts based on “what we know works, based on our limited capacity.”
He also in the belief that all it takes is one COVID case to show Palau’s limitation.

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