This week, President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. urged his ministers to carefully manage expenditures in the face of an anticipated tourism revenue drop.
World travel has experienced a downturn as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with travelers staying close to home for fear of contracting the virus that has claimed nearly 3,000 lives. For Palau, this has translated to a 43 percent drop in visitor arrivals from its major markets in the month of February.
During his weekly cabinet meeting, the president asked his ministers to “exercise financial caution as we ride out this black eye”, referring to the virus. He specifically cited travel and hiring as areas in which the ministers can save money during this downturn.
But he also struck an optimistic note, reminding everyone that Palau has recovered from similar situations in the past, including the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) -related coronavirus and Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS) outbreaks a few years ago. “Review your finances and make necessary expense cuts…we will overcome this,” President Remengesau said.
President Remengesau has also asked the Bureau of Tourism and the Palau Visitors Authority to work with the private sector to assess business projections with expected impacts the outbreak will have on the economy.
In the meantime, health officials assured the President that they are continuing all efforts to prevent COVID-19 from entering Palau, with extensive monitoring and diagnostic measures already implemented at all ports of entry.
“The Ministry of Health has undertaken all precautionary measures within its disposal to this effort and will continue to work with the National Emergency Committee (NEC) to try and prevent the virus from entering the Republic,” Minister of Health Dr. Emais Roberts assured the President and cabinet members.