Tourists swim in Palau’s Milky Way lagoon on March 31 last year. Photo: Chuang Shih-hsien, Taipei Times
CASE SURGE: Palau’s domestic COVID-19 situation seems under control, but it remains unclear how the country handles imported cases, Chen Shih-chung said
By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter
Taiwanese travelers returning from Palau would have to quarantine in government facilities for five days upon arrival before observing self-health management for another 16 days, the Central Epidemic Command Center （CECC） said yesterday, after the Pacific country reported a surge in imported COVID-19 cases.
Taiwan and Palau early last year signed an agreement to enable quarantine-free travel, after Taiwan had effectively curbed its first domestic outbreak of the virus and Palau had not yet posted any cases.
However, the licensed tours required Taiwanese to present a negative COVID-19 test report before boarding their flight, and contact with locals was limited.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung （陳時中）, who heads the CECC, confirmed that Palau had as of yesterday reported 189 COVID-19 cases, including 157 in the past seven days.
“We were told that 139 of these cases were identified as soon as they arrived at the airport, and Palau only had nine local cases. It seemed relatively stable,” Chen said. “But the problem is that we do not know what they did to manage 139 cases after they were identified at the airport.”
The latest flight from Palau arrived in Taiwan on Jan. 5, when the ally had not yet reported any COVID-19 cases, Chen said, adding that no Palauan arrivals to Taiwan have been found to have the disease.
The CECC yesterday evening tightened travel restrictions for tourists returning from Palau.
Currently, returnees must undergo a stricter version of self-health management for five days and another nine days of observing regular self-health management.
They must undergo COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction （PCR） tests on the fifth, 12th, 13th and 14th days after arrival.
Starting tomorrow, tourists must quarantine for five days in a government facility and practice a stricter version of self-health management for another nine days, as well as regular self-health management for another seven.
PCR tests would be required on the fifth, 13th and 14th days, as well as rapid tests on the eighth, 11th, 20th and 21st days.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has adjusted the travel alert for Palau to “gray,” meaning that people should be cautious, the center said, adding that the ministry and the Tourism Bureau would discuss ways to refund those who cancel their trips to Palau.