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President Tommy Remengesau Jr has ordered Palau’s economy to begin reopening.
Remengesau has ordered his administration to allow flights to resume in a manner that will ensure the safety of the nation’s population as outlined in the newly adopted Essential Air Services Policy.
The president stopped all passenger flights in March when nations outside of China started detecting the novel coronavirus. There have been a few flights from Guam to Palau for returning residents – primarily medical patients in Asia and the U.S. as well as college students whose campuses closed due to COVID-19. Cargo flights with goods and mail were allowed to continue but with strict protocol to keep the virus out of Palau, which remains COVID-19-free.
In line with that, Presidential Directive 20-43 calls for the continuation of the quarantine programme for all in-bound passengers to help ensure the virus doesn’t make its way to the local population.
It also requires the government’s tourism agency to work with Palau’s private sector to develop a strategy for safely restarting tourism and other travel-dependent business activities. A pandemic safety certification program also needs to be developed, along with a training schedule for all tourism industry employees.
According to the Essential Air Services Policy, which is in effect from 01 September 2020, to 30 January, 2021, the island nation depends on “international travel for critical development, family, economic, humanitarian and medical needs.”
“Thousands of Palauans live off island, predominately in the United States. To attend funerals, respond to family emergencies and seek emergency medical care, Palauans must have some ability to access international flights,” the policy states.
“Meanwhile, the republic continues to depend on air cargo for many priority material needs, including medical supplies and mail service, which is increasingly important during our ongoing national elections. For this reason, it shall be the policy of the republic to maintain a minimum flight schedule of at least two flights per month between Palau and the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For September, the commercial flights are scheduled for Friday mornings, officials stated. However, that will change in October. The flights will be rescheduled to separate them from the (Asia Pacific Airlines) cargo flights, which arrive on Thursdays.
Travelers from a location requiring mandatory quarantine must be able to find “an approved quarantine room available” when in Palau.
“The ministry of finance shall track approved quarantine rooms to determine availability. If there is insufficient quarantine capacity for all interested travelers, quarantine certificates shall be issued based on the priority levels,” the policy states.
Returning residents are level 1 priority, followed by essential workers as level 2, visiting citizens as level 3, nonessential workers are level 4, and visiting non-citizens are level 5.
Additionally, all travelers may be charged to offset the cost of quarantine, though the government will work to minimise or eliminate this charge for citizens and established returning residents if funds are available.
SOURCE: THE GUAM DAILY POST/PACNEWS
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