President-elect Surangel Whipps Jr. with his Economic Recovery subcommittee is pushing to secure travel between Palau and Taiwan through a “sterile corridor” plan before the vaccination for COVID-19 is implemented.

“We need to look at all the options to protect and to help our people.  We are very appreciative of the U.S. Government for prioritizing Palau with vaccinations. We are doing all we can to assist with logistical support so they can bring in as many vaccinations as possible, so our people can be vaccinated and feel safe.  Nonetheless, the availability of the vaccine is a separate issue from securing travel between Palau and Taiwan,” said President-elect in a press release issued yesterday.

The Economic Recovery subcommittee stresses that “Palau cannot maintain the wait and see approach and carry-on with an unreliable and unsustainable travel system composed of intermittent and costly Palau chartered flights and draining and inconsistent quarantine and testing mandates and practices.”

The “sterile corridor” concept according to the subcommittee means that Palau will only allow travelers to enter Palau from Taiwan if the traveler originated in Taiwan or has completed the 14 day quarantine in Taiwan and tested negative  prior to departure to Palau.  The subcommittee says that this is similar to the protocol used in the repatriation of people from Guam to Palau.  Meanwhile, Palau being covid-free, it would be treated by Taiwan like domestic destination.  All people travelling from Taiwan to Palau will be required under this “sterile corridor” plan to take PCR test 72 hours prior to departure.

This, according to the president-elect subcommittee, will ensure a safe and secure means of travel between Palau and Taiwan.  “The sterile corridor is taut and actually provide protection for travelers from Palau and Taiwan.  If established, it will provide a safe travel route, reduced associated time and costs and increased frequency of flights.  This will greatly benefit patients, essential travelers, students as well as encourage tourists originating from Taiwan,” stated the subcommittee’s press release.

Meanwhile, Minister of Health Dr. Emais Roberts recommended that Palau exercise patience just a little bit more and wait for the vaccination to finish.  He said that although Taiwan has been successful containing covid-19 at its borders and have not reported local transmission in over 200 days, it is not covid-free, only covid safe. 

President Remengesau in a letter earlier urged Taiwan to ease its quarantine requirements for travelers from Palau and said that he shares president-elect Whipps frustration on slow movement from Taiwan.  He did say that Taiwan Embassy in Palau is very understanding of the situation but the process in Taiwan requires Taiwan CDC and its health agency to approve the changes and that is slow moving. 

President-elect Whipps Economic Recovery subcommittee stated that the opening of the “sterile corridor” “gives hope to our tourism industry that has been in hiatus and the approximately 3,000 unemployed, many of them Palauans, who will no longer be receiving financial assistance by the end of January 2021.  For this Palauans, it won’t be about the checks, but individual livelihood and sustenance.” (source: Press Release President-Elect SWJ Transition Team)

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