TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwan and the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau launched a coronavirus travel bubble Thursday to promote tourism, in recognition of their success in stamping out the pandemic locally.
Passengers must take a polymerase chain reaction test for the virus before being allowed to board their flights but will not be required to undergo quarantine.
Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the bubble was made possible because “both sides have controlled the epidemic well.” Palau President Surangel Whipps is in Taipei for the inaugural flight, wrapping up a five-day visit to Taiwan.
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, there are 96 tourists on board the first tourist flight for a four-day tour in Palau.
Among the passengers, Taiwanese travel blogger Shih Song-han called the 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 on how open international travel is,” Shih said.
Tourist Josephine Lin said 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.
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