Taiwan, Pacific ally Palau to open travel bubble next month | Nation/World News

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwan and the Pacific nation of Palau are set to launch a travel bubble next month that will allow people to travel between islands without COVID-19 quarantine.

Palau is one of Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies after China lured other countries into refusing to recognize the self-governing island it regards as part of its own territory.

The travel bubble will be Taiwan’s first after being largely closed to overseas travel in one of the world’s most successful campaigns against the coronavirus.

For its part, Palau has had no cases of COVID-19, said Chen Shih-chung, head of the Central Epidemic Command Center in Taiwan, at a press conference announcing the bubble on Wednesday.

Travelers must participate in group tours and meet certain health conditions, but they do not need to be quarantined, according to Chen.

Travelers must not have been out of bounds for six months, have not been quarantined in the past two months, and have not been infected with the coronavirus in the past three months, Chen said. They must take a virus test and monitor their health before leaving Taiwan and upon their return, especially during the first five days after their return.

The bubble begins with two flights a week between the two islands, with the first flight scheduled on April 1st.

Taiwan has recorded about 990 cases of coronavirus infection with 10 deaths from COVID-19. The island quickly took tough measures after the first cases were discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. It has strict border measures with a mandatory two-week quarantine for all travelers and has been largely closed to foreign travelers unless they work or live in Taiwan.

Much of the existing tourism from Palau to Taiwan is medical tourism, and Taiwan is a provider of virus testing and other medical supplies.

Palau’s current travel policy states that newcomers will be quarantined for 14 days if their place of origin is a high risk location, while a shorter quarantine is possible for people who have traveled from places where the virus does not transferred to the community.

Palau’s President Surangel Whipps Jr. will be making an official visit to Taiwan on March 28 to promote the island’s tourism industry, although it will not be a formal state visit, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said.

The islands have had diplomatic relations since 1999.

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