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Diplomatic allies Taiwan and Palau have opened their coronavirus journey bubble. AFP studies.

Taiwan and Palau launched what’s being billed as Asia’s first coronavirus journey bubble on Thursday as the 2 diplomatic allies strive to kickstart their battered vacationer industries after efficiently holding infections at bay.

Around 100 excited Taiwanese vacationers arrived at Taoyuan worldwide airport close to Taipei on Thursday morning, checking in some 5 hours earlier than their afternoon flight so as to be examined for the coronavirus.

“I haven’t been on an aeroplane for over a year and I am so excited,” one passenger informed SET TV on the airport.

“This is the inaugural tour and we are on the same flight with Palau president,” he added.

President Surangel Whipps has been on a go to to Taiwan since Sunday and can accompany the Taiwanese vacationers again to his Pacific island nation.


President of Palau Surangel Whipps Jr. (proper) has accompanied 100 vacationers from Taiwan to his nation, the primary abroad guests in additional than a 12 months. Photograph: Ritchie B Tongo/EPA

Palau lies about 1,000 kilometres east of the Philippines and is one of the few locations on Earth by no means to have recorded a Covid-19 case.

It can also be one of solely 15 nations that also recognises Taiwan over China, regardless of intense strain from Beijing to swap sides.

Taiwan was hit early by the coronavirus when it unfold from China final 12 months.

But it defeated its personal outbreak and has managed to preserve infections managed thanks to strict border controls, quarantine and tracing.

“It takes so long for the (launch) of the travel bubble and a lot of long-term efforts by everyone,” Taiwanese well being minister Chen Shih-chung, informed reporters.

“Both sides are pandemic-safe so the journey can begin,” he added.

The plan is to ultimately have 16 flights per week on the route, a significant lifeline for Palau’s economic system, which earlier than the pandemic relied on tourism for greater than half its gross home product.

Despite Taiwan’s coronavirus free standing, strict measures will nonetheless be enforced to defend Palau’s 18,000-strong inhabitants from the danger of an infection.

Palau’s largest city, Koror

Palau’s largest metropolis, Koror Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

All vacationers should check destructive earlier than the flight. They can journey solely in tour teams and are barred from making particular person excursions.

Contact with Palau locals shall be saved to a minimal, with vacationers staying at designated accommodations, consuming in separate restaurant areas and allowed to store solely at set instances.

Taiwan – inhabitants 23 million – has been hailed as a worldwide success story in containing the virus, with some 1,030 confirmed instances and 10 deaths.

Whipps has acknowledged no system is foolproof however stated well being specialists had calculated that the prospect of Covid-19 reaching Palau through the journey bubble was one in 4 million.

Earlier, Bernadette Carreon in Koror, and Erin Hale in Taipei, filed this report for the Guardian on how the journey bubble will work.

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