President Surangel Whipps Jr., officially reported the first positive COVID-test result from a traveler that entered Palau on May, 9, 2021. The case is said to be a residue of previous infection and not an active case, considered very low to no risk of infection to others. The traveler was found to have positive covid result after the 4th test, conducted 21 days after arrival.
President Whipps urged the public to remain calm, not to panic and to practice preventive measures saying that the case is a “historical” one meaning that it was a residue or remnant of previous illness and that has very low or no risk of infection.
The traveler was fully vaccinated before travelling to Palau, submitted negative PCR test results 72 hours prior to boarding a plane, went into quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Palau on May 9th, took tests on day 7th, and day 14th, all of which were negative. After being released on day 14th, the traveler was under Restricted Movement for another 7 days before taking another test on day 21. This final day testing showed positive results and after further testing, it was determined to be remnant or “footprint” from the January 2021 covid infection that the traveler had recovered from earlier.
Even though the traveler had exceeded the incubation period or the 14 days quarantine as recommended by US Center for Disease Control (CDC), Ministry of Health, “due to overabundance of caution” has placed the traveler in isolation and commenced contact tracing. In addition, people close to the traveler have been quarantined, according to report from EOC Deputy Incident Commander Gaafar Uherbelau.
All the other travelers that arrived on the same flight were tested and had negative PCR test results on day 21 with exception of this one traveler.
Dr. Victor Yano at the press conference explained that three different analyzing machines used at MOH showed that the traveler with positive results had very high cycle threshold (CT value), which means that the case is not infectious and has very low to no risk of transmission.
Asked if there will be changes because of the case, President Whipps said that no changes will be called for, that events and activities such walkathon, Belau Games and others will proceed as planned.
Graduation parties, funerals, omengat and other activities can proceed and people are just reminded to practice protective measures.
In “opening Palau with care”, President Whipps said that Palau has implemented more stringent measures than what CDC recommends. Palau, he said, has been preparing for this day, getting the facilities ready, training doctors and vaccinating most of the population with 96% of the total adult population fully vaccinated, which represents 71% of the total population. He urged those that have not been vaccinated get vaccinated.
“We are the most prepared of any nation and we can be proud of that,” stated President Whipps. “We need to change our mindset from COVID-free to COVID-safe.”
Dr. Victor Yano echoed President’s remarks saying “We have prepared as much as we can.”
Dr. Thane Hancock, a CDC expert that joined the Special Press Conference to discuss this case said that Palau has gone beyond CDC recommendations, and “in overabundance of caution” to test, identify and isolate the case and conduct contract tracing.
“Palau is the best nation in the world to respond to this, “stated Dr. Hancock, given the measures it has implemented.
With vaccination rate going up and more flights coming in with vaccinated travelers, IDC Gaafar Uherbelau said Palau can expect to see more of these types of cases, of people that have been infected with COVID, recovered and got vaccinated but may still have “remnants” of the virus in their systems that can still be detected.
Under Palau’s current MOH Directive 13-21, people can come to Palau if they are fully vaccinated and submit negative PCR test result 72 hours before boarding a plane. Upon arrival, they will undergo 7-day Restricted Movement, with mandatory testing upon arrival. People planning to travel to Palau must obtain Quarantine Certificate from Palau prior to purchasing an airline ticket.

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