Palau in further talks for travel bubbles; begins to vaccinate young people

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The Palau Government is in talks with Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan to restart its tourism given Palau’s success and high rate of the vaccination programmes, according to President Surangel S. Whipps Jr.

Tourism Minister Ngirai Tmetuchl said that the discussion with Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore has started.

Tmetuchl told reporters at a 21 July press conference that while the bubbles with those flights are feasible, the challenge is for tourists returning home from Palau.

“We have discussions with Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore on reopening flights. The one complication we have is the return of the passengers. They are still requiring 14-day quarantines which is a big deterrent to tourists that come to Palau,” he said.

However, he said tourists coming from the U.S. to Palau “have been looking good.”

While there are still few flights to Palau via Guam, the government is hopeful that the frequency of flights will increase in the coming months, Whipps said.

For now, the U.S. market has been the main source of tourists for Palau in the past weeks.

On 26 July Palau began vaccinating adolescents aged 12 to 17 against coronavirus.

The Pfizer vaccine will be given to that group.

Gaafar Uherbelau, assistant liaison officer for the COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Operation at the Ministry of Health and Human Services Operation, said based on the latest data there are an estimated 1, 700 young people aged 12 to 17 in the country.

Pfizer is the first vaccine manufacturer to gain emergency use authorisation for the younger group.

President Surangel Whipps Jr said extending vaccines to adolescents will increase the number of fully vaccinated individuals in the country and will bring the percentage of the entire population fully vaccinated in Palau to almost 90%.

“We are already in the herd immunity, this will bring us to herd immunity,” he said on 21 July.

According to the Ministry of Health, as of 16 July there were 14,038 people aged 18 and above fully vaccinated.

According to the 2010 census, the population of Palau is 18,000.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered to adults in Palau.

Whipps said that Palau would ensure that those that are traveling to Palau have been fully vaccinated.

He also said the presence of the U. S military personnel also contributed to tourism.

“You have to be vaccinated to come to Palau and our only hope, for now, is in the US. We are fortunate that the U.S. military is here. We have militaries in the hotel… we have to continue welcoming people, but continue our strict policy to keep us safe, “he said.

Whipps also stressed that Palau remains hopeful that it can reopen its borders to the countries or markets that usually visit the nation, when their vaccination rates are more robust.

SOURCE: MARIANAS BUSINESS JOURNAL/PACNEWS