This week, in the midst of ongoing talks of opening a “sterile corridor”, the Government of Taiwan contributed funds and supplies to Palau’s fight against COVID, including $500 thousand in support of the vaccination effort, and 6 thousand Antigen Rapid Test kits donated from a Taiwanese manufacturer.

The 6 thousand test kits, which were delivered to the Belau National Hospital (BNH) by the Embassy of the Republic of China-Taiwan on Tuesday, were developed and donated by the Taiwanese manufacturers Fora Care Foundation and TaiDoc Technology Corps. The test kits are designed to provide COVID-19 test results in 15 minutes by trained professionals, without the need for laboratory processing.

On Wednesday, Ambassador Wallace Chow of Taiwan presented a grant check for $500 thousand to President Surangel Whipps Jr. at BNH, in support of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) vaccination plan.

While the vaccines are continuing to be supplied to Palau by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the grant funding will be used for supplemental needs such as storage, training for MOH staff, promotional items and educational materials, and other logistical needs.

Taiwan has provided technical and financial support as well as medical expertise to Palau’s campaign for COVID-prevention since border closures. In April of last year, Taiwan donated its first one-thousand test kits to Palau, along with medical experts from Shin Kong Hospital in Taipei to train MOH staff how to operate the equipment and implement safe COVID-monitoring systems. Since then, it has continued to offer protection equipment and medical expertise to Palau’s prevention efforts. But this help carries added weight as the two countries continue to plan on how to make a travel bubble possible.

Ambassador Chow has said that the donation of the rapid test kits can be especially useful if borders open between the two countries. Although the idea of opening a “sterile corridor” is continuing to experience setbacks, the two countries are continuing to review logistics for how and when such a corridor can safely open.

Less than a month ago, President Whipps announced that he was hopeful that a travel bubble between the two countries could open by the end of March. The goal of late March has since seemed to have become less likely, due to a cluster of locally-transmitted COVID cases which were detected in Taoyuan General Hospital in Taiwan. While the Taiwanese Government has implemented strict measures to contain the virus transmission, quarantining thousands in the hospital area and conducting contact-tracing to determine if the transmission has been larger than anticipated, President Whipps said that he remains “always hopeful” that the bubble will be established soon.

“The vaccines are coming . . . if our partners can continue to be safe, maybe that window can open,” President Whipps said.

The vaccine allocation for this month from the US CDC is scheduled to arrive this week, and includes 3,200 doses, capable of vaccinating 1,600 people.

The Embassy of Taiwan has said that it will continue to aid Palau in its effort to vaccinate at least 80 percent of its population as soon as possible. 

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