Over 100 tourists from Taiwan that included media members arrived in Palau last night, officially launching the first travel bubble or “sterile corridor” between Palau and Taiwan.
The delighted tourists were on the same flight with President Surangel Whipps Jr. who upon arriving, delivered a short remark to welcome the visitors.
Tourists were also welcomed by the traditional Palauan dancers. The dancers, taking precautions, were wearing masks.
“First of all, welcome to Palau “Whipps said to the visitors at the airport.
“It is indeed an honor to welcome you to Palau, “a visibly excited president said.
Whipps said his four-day trip to Taiwan was very productive and was aimed at promoting Palau to Taiwanese tourists.
“We want you to have fun and enjoy Palau, so when you go back, you will continue smiling,” Whipps said.
On Tuesday, President Whipps met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and said that the travel bubble is very important to the country economically, which has been devastated by the pandemic.
Whipps said its strong relationship with its closest ally, Taiwan and the United States has made the “sterile corridor’ possible,
Whipps said Palau’s vaccination program is one of the key factors in the confidence to open the border to tourists.
“For Palau, we got our shot in the arm with the vaccine, by allowing the tourists to come in we have a shot in the arm with our economy and that’s very important,” Whipps told Tsai in their meeting.
The passengers on this inaugural flight have to check in five hours before their flight to be tested for the coronavirus. All passengers tested negative for the virus, including President Whipps and his delegation.
The tourists however are not allowed to move around the community on their own and can only travel in tour groups.
Their contact with the Palau locals will be minimal.
Taiwanese meanwhile traveling back from Palau, after the five-day trip will have to go into “enhanced” self-health management and a nine-day “normal” self-health management period.
“Opening up this sterile corridor is all about opening with care and being safe, we know that what we are doing will cause some inconvenience … we ask for people’s safety because it’s all about safety,” Whipps earlier said during his meeting with President Tsai.
Meanwhile, members of the President’s Whipps delegation in Taiwan are required to refrain from attending public events such as funerals and eating out for the duration of the Restriction of Movement (ROM) period.
The returning delegation was also asked to wear masks at times in public and while traveling during the ROM period. After a week of their return, the delegation has to take COVID-19 tests again.