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Taiwan-Palau travel bubble on horizon

Palauan President set to announce deal in visit to Taiwan next week

Malakal Island in Palau (Getty Images)

Malakal Island in Palau (Getty Images)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Palau’s President Surangel Whipps Jr. is reportedly visiting Taiwan on March 15 to promote the much-awaited “travel bubble” between the two countries.

The Pacific ally of Taiwan has not registered a single coronavirus case, and talks of an arrangement for bilateral tourism have so far failed to materialize over the nation’s fear of medical inadequacy in the event of an outbreak. The plans are expected to be revived soon, reported CNA.

According to travel agencies familiar with the matter, there will be eight flights from each side per week. China Airlines and EVA Air will operate six and two flights, respectively, from Taiwan, while Palau Pacific Airways will offer eight flights by leasing aircraft and cabin crew from Tigerair Taiwan, a budget airline.

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has sent two doctors to the archipelagic nation in preparation for the travel bubble, which has been postponed due to new COVID-19 outbreaks. CECC Spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said in a regular briefing on Sunday (March 7) that a five-day quarantine is being considered, with details of the initiative to be discussed in the coming days.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) attended Whipps’ inauguration ceremony in January, where he expressed optimism about the travel bubble but also said challenges remained. Whipps has advocated for a “sterile corridor” with Taiwan and more collaborations in healthcare and trade.

According to the proposal of the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble revealed last October, a negative COVID result is mandatory for participants in group tours, and they will not be allowed to move around independently during their visits.