Imminent travel bubble stoking controversy in Palau: KMT Taipei councilor

A travel bubble allowing Taiwanese to enter Palau without quarantining is stirring controversy in Palau, according to a KMT Taipei councilor. Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin says she”s been informed that quite a few Palauans are opposed to the plan. Palau has had zero cases of COVID since the start of the pandemic, and some locals fear a travel corridor would introduce infection risk.

Announced on Wednesday, the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble launches next month, and already airlines and travel agencies have unveiled itineraries. The travel bubble was touted as a symbol of friendship between the two allied nations. But according to KMT Councilor Hsu, there are some in Palau who don”t want Taiwanese tourists coming in.

Hsu Chiao-hsin
KMT Taipei councilor
It might be because Palau has been quite effective at containing COVID. It is also an island nation, with a small population. So the launch of the travel bubble is something they are quite wary of, especially after the Fleet of Friendship incident. That caused some panic in the country.

Hsu says last year”s Panshih incident is feeding worries over the travel bubble. Meanwhile, there”s also opposition to the bubble within Taiwan. During the YouTube livestream of the announcement on Wednesday, one viewer commented that “traveling in a bubble would be a hassle, since you have to move in groups all the time.” Another voiced concern that travelers could bring the coronavirus into Taiwan. Yet another one said, “I don”t understand why it”s so urgent to open up travel.”

Chen Shih-chung
Health minister
Palau has had zero COVID cases, so deciding on this policy was relatively easy for us. Back then the hardest issue to resolve was – they had zero cases, so it”s easy for us to say, “It”s OK to go there and come back.” But from their perspective, the question was what kind of test regime should be implemented. That was a tough issue for them.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung said the travel bubble was made possible because Palau trusts the COVID testing done in Taiwan. Meanwhile, reports say that more countries, including Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and South Korea, have expressed interest in a travel bubble with Taiwan.

Lin Chia-lung
Transport minister
As Taiwan and Palau take this step, the whole world is watching. As we develop bubble tourism and this so-called green corridor, we”re creating a metric that other cities and regions will reference when opening their borders.

The health and transport minister said no decisions have been made yet, and that all arrangements are still under discussion. Though many countries are eager to resume international travel, the top priority is still to ensure public health and safety.

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