TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - Pandemic-weary Taiwanese tourists headed for the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau following the launch of a coronavirus travel bubble, a recognition of their success in stamping out the pandemic locally.
Passengers must take a PCR test before being allowed to board their flights but will not be required to undergo quarantine.
Taiwanese travel blogger Shih Song-han called the four-day trip a “rare opportunity.”
“It has been a whole year without traveling. It will be whole new experience for every passenger. I also want to show my fans about how open international travel is,” Shih said.
Fellow passenger Josephine Lin said Taiwan’s success battling the pandemic meant she “felt very safe during this recent past period.”
“The situation is the same in Palau. This is why I think this country (Palau) is safe, and I would like to visit it,” Lin said.
Trip organizers created a festive atmosphere, with entertainment and lessons in basic Palau phrases.
Palau President Surangel Whipps, wrapping up a five-day visit to Taiwan, said that safety measures would remain in place to ensure the success of the bubble.
“And we could all have fun. And (tourists) can all return smiling,” Whipps said after all those tested, including himself, declared virus-free.
Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the bubble was made possible because “both sides have controlled the epidemic well.”
Palau is one of only 15 countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as its territory with no right diplomatic recognition. China has banned its citizens from visiting Palau.
According to the Tourism Bureau, 96 on board the first tourist flight .
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