Taiwan suspends plans for ‘travel bubble’ with Palau for now

(Courtesy of Pristine Paradise Palau)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, 中華民國外交部) said on Tuesday that the plans for a “tourism bubble” with Palau will be suspended for now due to a recent outbreak of novel coronavirus infections in the country.

Minister of MOFA Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) went to the archipelago last month as the presidential envoy to congratulate Palau’s new president Surangel Whipps, Jr. on his inauguration.

As the country first claimed that it didn’t have any coronavirus cases, the MOFA first considered the possibility of implementing a “travel bubble” between Taiwan and Palau.

Larry R.L. Tseng (曾瑞利), who heads MOFA’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Wu had visited and evaluated some Palau scenic spots frequently visited by tourists.

The promotion of “travel bubbles” between Taiwan and Palau is still in progress, Tseng said, but Taiwan must wait until the domestic situation is under control before pushing forward.

The MOFA and the Palau government have been promoting the “travel bubble” for half a year. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said in an interview last October that Taiwan considered Palau as a safe tourist destination.

Chen said that considering the local medical capacity in Palau — there are relatively few medical professionals — the relaxation of quarantine measures will not be considered for the time being.

A COVID-19 cluster infection broke out at the Taoyuan General Hospital (部桃園醫院) last month. As of Feb. 2, 19 infections have been confirmed and one patient later died as a result.