Taiwan, Palau launch COVID-19 travel bubble

TAIPEI: Taiwan and the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau launched a coronavirus travel bubble on Thursday (Apr 1) to promote tourism, in recognition of their success in stamping out the pandemic locally.

Passengers must take a polymerase chain reaction test for the virus before being allowed to board their flights but will not be required to undergo quarantine.

Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the bubble was made possible because “both sides have controlled the epidemic well”. 

Palau President Surangel Whipps is in Taipei for the inaugural flight, wrapping up a five-day visit to Taiwan.

Taiwan Palau

Palau President Surangel Whipps (centre) lines up to take a COVID-19 antigen test with Taiwanese travellers at Taoyuan International Airport on Apr 1, 2021. (Photo: AP Images)

READ: Palau president visits Taiwan to open travel bubble 

Palau is one of only 15 countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as its territory with no right diplomatic recognition. China has banned its citizens from visiting Palau.

According to the Tourism Bureau, there are 96 tourists on board the first tourist flight for a four-day tour in Palau.

Taiwan Palau

Taiwanese travelers prepare to take COVID-19 virus antigen test before leaving Taiwan, at Taoyuan International Airport on Apr 1, 2021. (Photo: AP Images)

Taiwan Palau

Taiwanese traveler Kuo Yitting shows her boarding pass and a report of virus antigen test before leaving Taiwan, at Taoyuan International Airport on Apr 1, 2021. (Photo: AP Images)

Among the passengers, Taiwanese travel blogger Shih Song-han called the trip a “rare opportunity”.

“It has been a whole year without travelling. It will be whole new experience for every passenger. I also want to show my fans on how open international travel is,” Shih said.

READ: Taiwan premier gets AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as island starts vaccine campaign

READ: Singapore and Taiwan in talks about possible travel bubble: Reports

Tourist Josephine Lin said she “felt very safe during this recent past period”.

“The situation is the same in Palau. This is why I think this country (Palau) is safe, and I would like to visit it,” Lin said.

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