TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The travel bubble between Taiwan and Palau is in jeopardy as the diplomatic ally’s COVID case count has risen to 189.

On Wednesday evening (Jan. 19), Palau’s Ministry of Health and Human Services announced 22 new COVID cases. The country had already reported 161 active cases related to travel, nine active cases in the local community, 19 who have recovered, and 603 undergoing quarantine.

Palau’s Island Times on Tuesday (Jan. 18) reported that the country is suffering a COVID outbreak after nearly two years of having zero cases. Given the “characteristics and the speed of the spread,” the newspaper cited local physicians as saying that the culprit behind the surge is likely the Omicron variant.

Hospital isolation wards have reportedly “filled up” and people who test positive now are being told to quarantine at home. In an attempt to control the outbreak, all schools have suspended classes.

Taiwan and Palau are operating a travel bubble in which arrivals from Taiwan do not need to quarantine and only need to undergo self-health monitoring. Likewise, when they return from Palau do not need to undergo quarantine and can instead observe five days of enhanced self-health monitoring followed by nine days of general self-health monitoring.

In response to the spike in cases in Palau, Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that a video conference will be held with Palau’s health ministry soon to better understand the local outbreak and re-evaluate whether it is necessary to adjust quarantine measures related to the “five plus nine” Palau travel bubble.

The next Taiwanese tour group is scheduled to fly to Palau on Jan. 26, and given the rapid rise in cases, the trip appears to be in jeopardy or could be subject to restrictions.

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