Taiwan to open borders to Palau in first ‘travel bubble’

Palau has zero coronavirus cases but has sealed borders as precaution

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Full view of Palau Malakal Island and Koror (Getty Images image)

Full view of Palau Malakal Island and Koror (Getty Images image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan is in talks with its Pacific ally Palau to form a “travel bubble” for bilateral tourism, the first such arrangement since the country banned inbound and outbound tour groups in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal, discussed in meetings last week, will waive quarantine measures for tourists from both sides. The group tours must be operated by travel agencies and visitors are required to present a negative result for a coronavirus PCR test, reported CNA.

Travel agencies in Taiwan arranging tours to Palau must forward an itinerary prior to making the trip, said the Tourism Bureau. Participants in the travel bubble tours will not be allowed free time on their own, in order to reduce virus transmission risks.

Not only are tourists required to produce a PCR test result indicating they are free from the novel virus, they are also asked to have medical insurance to cover healthcare costs in the event of an emergency.

Details of the travel bubble plan will be announced at a later date following consultation with the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Civil Aeronautics Administration, and industry players, according to the Tourism Bureau.

In an interview with Taiwan News in August, Palauan Ambassador to Taiwan Dilmei Louisa Olkeriil said the island nation was planning to open up for tourism with Taiwan. COVID-19 has taken a toll on the economy of Palau, whose tourism industry ground to a halt. In recent years it typically received 150,000 to 200,000 tourists annually.