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Resumption of Taiwan-Palau travel bubble draws COVID vaccine tourists

132 Taiwanese and 15 Palauan travelers booked on Saturday's first flight

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Sign at Taoyuan Airport on Saturday announces resumption of Taiwan-Palau travel bubble. (CNA, TIAC photo). 

Sign at Taoyuan Airport on Saturday announces resumption of Taiwan-Palau travel bubble. (CNA, TIAC photo). 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The first flight after the resumption of the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble Saturday (Aug. 14) is 90% full, with the majority of travelers having registered for COVID-19 vaccines.

Taiwan and its Pacific island ally first launched a similar arrangement in April, but when the former was hit by a surge in local COVID infections in mid-May, flights between the two countries were canceled.

Under the new scheme, tour groups heading for Palau will be joined by individual travelers and by vaccine tourists. The first flight would carry 132 Taiwanese passengers and 15 citizens of Palau, with most of the latter group having undergone medical treatment in Taiwan, CNA reported Friday (Aug. 13).

Travelers have to report at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, even though their flight does not leave until 10:30 a.m. Arrival in Palau is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. local time.

While quarantine will not be necessary under the travel bubble program, each traveler will have to submit to a total of three PCR tests, one before leaving for Palau and two following their return to Taiwan.

As Palau had 2,000 vaccine doses at its disposal and China Airlines (CAL) would operate two flights a week, officials estimated that anyone booking a trip before the end of September would have no problem getting inoculated. The Palau tourism office in Taipei said travelers needed first to book a flight before applying for the vaccination.

Privacy concerns barred the office from revealing how many of the travelers on the first flight had also booked COVID vaccinations, but the proportion was quite high, CNA reported.