TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The first flight returning home with passengers who visited Palau under the mutual travel bubble arrived at Taoyuan International Airport on Wednesday (Aug. 18), reported CNA.
The travel bubble, originally announced in April, was interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan and did not go into effect until this Saturday (Aug. 14), when the first batch of passengers flew out to Palau. On Wednesday evening, 130 returning travelers arrived in Taoyuan fully vaccinated after their trip.
The arrivals followed an exclusive route at the airport that began with customs and encompassed restrooms, baggage claim, and COVID testing booths. In addition, they need to take a PCR test five days after arriving at the airport and practice self-health management for nine more days if results come back negative.
According to CNA, travelers were very happy with the holiday and were glad for the opportunity to take their families somewhere outside Taiwan to relax. Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in early 2020, many families in Taiwan, especially those with young children, have complained about being unable to vacation abroad for fear of getting infected.
The announcement of the travel bubble relaunch on Aug. 11 immediately drew excitement among Taiwanese citizens. The attractive prices for tour groups and flight and hotel packages, ranging from around NT$30,000 (US$1,076) to NT$80,000, also boosted interest levels.
However, on Tuesday (Aug. 17), Palau announced that only visitors who are already vaccinated or intend to get vaccinated in Palau will be allowed entry, making the "travel bubble" a "vaccine bubble" instead.
Additionally, Palau will only offer the Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines after Aug. 19. As Palau follows American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations regarding mixing vaccine brands, those who have already received a dose of Moderna or Taiwan’s own Medigen vaccine will not be able to get their second dose in Palau nor get to enjoy a vacation there at all.
Upon hearing this news, travel agents became concerned it would result in reduced demand for Palau travel bubble packages since Moderna is one of the major vaccine brands available in Taiwan, reported UDN. However, some remain hopeful about the market despite its limits, as Taiwanese generally hold a favorable view of the Pfizer vaccine.