President Tommy Remengesau speaking before the Palau press on October 2. (Rhealyn C

President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. issued a statement on Sunday, March 15 to assuage public fears after the news of 3 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in Guam this weekend.

In the statement, President assured Palauan citizens and residents that he understood and shared the same anxiety as they do with the “uncertainty about the consequences” if the virus is detected in Palau.

He assured that the “full resources of the national government are being used to respond to COVID-19” and that they seek to ensure the safety and security of the public through daily transparent updates of information on the daily situation of the pandemic.

In addition, the assurances included statements that the “government has been preparing for this situation” and that it has been and will continue to work with international partners regarding the situation.

He said that the Ministry of Health has been preparing the Belau National Hospital to receive and care for patients with severe cases of the virus.  Remengesau reiterated that MOH continues screening all inbound travelers and had activated hotline for public inquiries.

Remengesau continues to caution against the passing of unverified information and urging people not to panic or hoard unnecessarily.

He said that global travel restrictions in addition to Palau’s restrictions have impacted the economy and that the government is working on measures to ease the burden during the economic decline.

Yesterday, President Remengesau consulted with Palau’s leadership and the National Emergency Committee on way forward. Results of the meetings were not yet available as of publication time.

The proposed supplemental budget which had allocated nearly a million dollars to the Ministry of Health to prepare for possible cases of COVID-19 is referred back to OEK with additional budget funding of $6 million to cover local revenue shortfall due to coronavirus impact.

The statement did not specify whether further closure or reductions of flights into Palau are expected, or what actions are expected to be taken by the government locally to minimize the potential impact or spread of the virus before it is detected on the island.

The statement encourages people to practice good hygiene, self-isolate if symptoms are experienced, avoid unessential travel and exercise precautionary measures in large gatherings.