The debate of whether to bring back stranded Palauan students and citizens abroad may have reached a turning point last week, with Palau congress requesting detail costs of bringing back stranded citizens in order to ensure that “stranded students and citizens are adequately cared for.”

The initial plan to bring back stranded students and citizens from Guam on May 21st met a wall of resistance from the national congress earlier, prompting a joint resolution of OEK urging the President not to bring back yet the stranded citizens for fear of bringing COVID-19 virus into Palau.

At the national leadership meeting, many expressed their fears based on their own online research such as the changing scientific information about the COVID-19 virus, lack of trust in the current capacity to handle a positive case and lack of trust in the testing processes.

In order to raise the level of confidence in the community and among the leadership, President Remengesau and Minister Dr. Emais Roberts revealed plans being put in place to minimize the risk of bringing the COVID-19 virus into Palau.

The proposal revealed was to break down the numbers to 50 per flight.  Returning students and stranded citizens will be quarantined in a hotel in Guam, 50 at a time, for 14 days.  A private medical company will be contracted to conduct testing  prior to people getting on the plane.  Upon arrival in Palau, people will be bused directly to quarantine sites where they will be quarantined for another 14 days and tested twice during that period prior to being released to their families.

OEK in its letter to President Remengesau requested for list of all stranded students with proof of student status, list of stranded citizens with proof of return ticket, cost of charter flight, cost of quarantine in Guam for 3 groups of 50 people ( total 150), medical supplies in Palau needed for quarantine, cost of contracting medical testing company and other information relating costs of processing the stranded citizens from Guam to Palau.

Last week during the situation briefing, some students were able to join the live video call in and shared their experiences where they are, their challenges and their need to return home.  Representatives at Palau consulates in Guam, Saipan and Hawaii reported on the status of the stranded Palauan students and citizens in their areas.

No specific date has been given for the return although Minister Dr. Emais Roberts had confirmed that it would be sometime in June since they were still making arrangements in Guam.