By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Palau, Taiwan set to launch 'sterile corridor' April 1
Palau will welcome the first 100 tourists from Taiwan on April 1, President Surangel Whipps said Wednesday, announcing the long-awaited "sterile corridor" between the two countries.
In a press conference, Whipps, Jr. and Taiwan’s Ambassador to Palau, Wallace Chow said the inaugural flight will bring the first batch of visitors under safety guidelines.
“We will open but we will open with care,” Whipps Jr. said.
Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung said that he hopes the new bubble will revitalize tourism and economic activities in the two countries while taking into account safety measures to minimize the risk of Covid infection and transmission.
In an earlier interview with TVBS, Whipps said the initial reopening will allow only two flights a week and visitors will be allowed to stay only for seven days to start.
"Our health professionals want to have comfort level," he said.
As long as the passenger tests negative, no quarantine is needed.
"If one case arrives, we catch it and contain it, "Whipps said. "We have an isolation area."
The gradual reopening, Whipps said, will allow Palau to get used to the arrival process at the airport, where antigen testing will be done on arriving passengers.
"We want to make sure the process is smooth. We want to make sure that we are prepared and that customers are happy with the process," Whipps said.
The flight frequency will later increase to four flights a week, and then six flights, depending on the outcome of the initial arrivals, Whipps said.
While Palau remains coronavirus-free and Taiwan’s Covid-19 control became the world’s envy, Whipps noted that risks have no been fully eliminated.
“Nothing is 100 percent sure,” he told TVBS. "We understand that the people of Taiwan care about Palau and the last thing they want to do is bring Covid to Palau."