• By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter

In addition to Palau, the nation is in talks with four other countries about forming “travel bubbles,” Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) told lawmakers at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday.

“The Tourism Bureau has also been talking with counterparts from Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam since last year about the possibility of forming a travel bubble,” Lin said, answering questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷).

“Aside from Palau, the Singaporean government has the COVID-19 outbreak well under control and is most active in pursuing an opportunity to form a travel bubble with Taiwan,” Lin added.

Photo: CNA

Hung asked if Lin or Tourism Bureau Director-General Chang Hsi-chung (張錫聰) would be willing to lead the first tour group to Palau to show people that it is safe to travel within the bubble, as Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), on Monday declined to do so.

Lin said that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications is prepared to comply with the CECC’s guidelines in facilitating overseas travel.

As travel bubbles involve agreements with other countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should make those decisions, he said.

“We see the hope of resuming overseas travel one day, but we should not get our hopes too high as the COVID-19 situation remains serious in other countries,” Lin said.

Media reports said a five-day package tour to Palau during the pandemic could cost NT$80,000, including a polymerase chain reaction test.

While the government has yet to announce when and how the tours to Palau would proceed, travel platform KKday yesterday launched a draw for a free package tour to Palau, with winners paying only NT$99.

“The Palauan government is training personnel to host international visitors in the post-pandemic era, and trainees must secure government certification before they are allowed to do so,” the online travel platform said.

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