The March 21st United Airlines flight to Palau brought in essential workers as was previously announced, but many were surprised to learn that it also brought in 32 Palauans from Guam who had reportedly been stranded after missing the repatriation flight last year.
Many comments from the public, learning about the arrival on a Facebook post, expressed upset that the information had not been transparent. Although the flight itinerary was mentioned during the February 26th press conference, information on travelers focused on the HHS team which was coming to help Palau with vaccinations.
According to a March 4th announcement from the Bureau of Aviation, the incoming flight on the 21st would bring in “essential workers” only. The flight that arrived on Sunday evening, however, brought 32 people in addition to the essential workers.
While details about the incoming travel bubble flight with Taiwan, a COVID-safe country, are being shared, information on the Guam flight has been sparse, leading many to question why.
The plan to bring in non-essential workers was already discussed with OEK leadership prior to the arrival, although the information was not shared with the general public.
“We were told in a meeting with the President that there were non-essential workers coming on the flight and that all the protocols were being followed,” reported Senate President Hokkons Baules when reached for comment.
It was learned through non-official sources that people who wanted to be on this flight could apply through the Palau government website, and that airline tickets could be purchased from MIC Solution Center in Guam. Many people were not aware that such options were available.
Current Ministry of Health Directive 1-21 still mandates that incoming travelers from countries with active cases must submit 2 negative PCR test results, one at the beginning of pre-quarantine period and one 72 hours prior to boarding the plane, and upon arrival will be quarantined for 14 days in addition to taking 2 more tests at different intervals.
The Ministry of Health EOC confirmed that all passengers had to comply with quarantine and tests orders.
Sources also reported that more than 32 people had applied for this flight, but not all met the requirements imposed by Palau as well as by United Airlines and were not permitted on the flight.
Gaafar Uherbelau, MOH EOC Deputy Incident Commander, reported at last week’s press conference of developing recommendations for the next MOH Directive for travelers coming from Guam. One process will apply to those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and will only require self-quarantine and testing. The second applies to those who have not received the vaccine. That process is the same as what is being practiced now.
“Our work with vaccinations has been going well, it is time to consider the next steps,” stated EOC Deputy Incident Commander Uherbelau. Quoting Senator Dr. Stevenson Kuartei, he said, “We need to start talking to the community about the next step, which is COVID-safe.”

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