On July 6, a planeload of Taiwanese travelers arrived in the US territory of Guam. But they didn’t just travel for the island’s gorgeous scenery — they were also there to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
The travelers were among the first to take part in the Air Visit & Vacation (nicknamed V&V) program organized by the Guam Visitors Bureau. The program enables eligible visitors from Taiwan ages 12 and up to travel to Guam and get their first shot as soon as one day after arriving.
Taiwan’s state-run news outlet CNA reported that 164 passengers arrived on the first flight from Taipei on Tuesday — and most got their first jabs the following day.
Lion Travel, a major travel company in Taiwan, said that tour packages from Taiwan to Guam have been sold out through mid-July.
Participants can choose which vaccine they want from a list that includes Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. If they have gotten a first shot somewhere else, they can still enroll in the V&V program for their second.
Guam’s governor Lou Leon Guerrero told media that all foreign visitors with a negative Covid-19 PCR test result within 72 hours of their flight can be exempted from quarantine as of July 4. On top of that, the first 5,000 international visitors to Guam from then will also be given a shopping allowance of US$500 to use on the island.
In order to participate, travelers must book their flights and reserve rooms at one of 11 designated hotels, then arrange private transport from the airport to the hotel and book their vaccination appointment online through a portal.
The vaccines are administered on-site at the hotels.
Taiwan was lauded for its quick thinking early on in the pandemic. The self-governed island of 23 million people closed its borders to nearly all non-residents in March 2020.
However, the island reported a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines in May as it suffered its worst outbreak of coronavirus, spurring some Taiwanese to travel overseas in order to get vaccinated.
In March, Australia’s Lowy Institute ranked Taiwan third best in the world — behind New Zealand and Bhutan — for its effective handling of the virus situation.
Now, the V&V project hopes to help Taiwanese residents get their vaccines more quickly, while also boosting tourism.
Guam isn’t the only Pacific island that’s tried to entice Taiwanese people to come and visit amid the pandemic. The tiny country of Palau welcomed visitors from Taiwan in April 2021, marking the successful opening of the Asia-Pacific region’s first official travel bubble.
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