Palau COVID free as tourism returns

Palau Minister of Health Dr. Emais Roberts with the first person to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in the country, Dr. Sylvia Osarch. Photo Credit: Palau Ministry of Health

Palau’s Minister of Health, Emais Roberts, said the country was COVID free and one of the first Pacific nations to have completed their vaccine rollout.

Palau received its first batch of the Moderna Vaccine on January 2 and has, to date, remained COVID free.

In an interview with ABC News, Dr Collin Tukuitonga, a specialist in Public Health in the Pacific at the University of Auckland, said that being a small island does have advantages.

“Palau is a very small island with a very small population, and that’s an advantage.”

Palau will be open to visitors from July 4, as long as they show a valid proof of full vaccination with the final dose received at least 14 days prior to their arrival.

Palau, however, has already opened its borders to Taiwan as a part of a travel bubble, with Taiwanese tourists already visiting.

The arrangements made by both the Taiwanese Government and Palau has seen tourism operators commending the Government’s efforts in bringing back tourists, but equally being cautious.

Owner of Landmark Hotel William Tsung told the Guardian earlier this year that “the Ministry of Health and the Government have done an excellent job, but opening this market is a very scary thing to do.”

“We are a COVID-free country and let’s try and keep it that way,” he said.

Dr Tukuitonga said that Palau has the facilities to administer vaccines and also to look after anyone with COVID symptoms.

“They’ve actually got a very good health system, generally speaking, in terms of numbers of healthcare professionals.”

Palau’s President Surangel Whipps Jr told The Guardian that the new travel directives will not affect Palau’s health system.

“First of all, we are testing everyone before they come to Palau, but even without testing, statistics show that the chance of COVID arriving in Palau is one-in-four million, or one in 40,000 flights.”

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