BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON
Palau Correspondent

U.S. Marine Corps personnel and sailors with Task Force Koa Moana 20, I Marine Expeditionary Force, prepare to self-administer COVID-19 tests at Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 23. TFKM 20 marines and sailors conducted the examinations after 14 days in isolation to ensure the task force is COVID-19 free for upcoming deployment.

Photo by Anabel Abreu Rodriguez

KOROR, Palau — Palau will receive three flights in July, as well as a military vessel from the United States with more than 100 personnel.

According to Health Minister Emais Roberts during a press conference on June 24, one of the flights is from Taiwan and scheduled to arrive July 7. It is bringing home Palau citizens who are in Taiwan for medical care.

The second air arrival is a United Airlines flight originating from Guam bringing stranded citizens back to Palau. That flight is scheduled for July 23.

For the incoming Palauans, Roberts announced scaled down quarantine procedures.

Passengers coming from Guam will only have to quarantine there prior to arrival to Palau for seven days instead of 14 days. They will be tested in Guam and after a week before leaving for Palau.

Upon arrival in Palau, the passengers will still quarantine for 14 days but are no longer required to self-quarantine when they complete the mandatory isolation in a hotel. The travelers will be tested a week after entering quarantine and again after 14 days, before being released.

While details of the third flight are not confirmed yet, a military plane will bring a new batch of Seabees to replace to replace the team currently in Palau.

That flight will bring 13 military personnel.

In addition to the July flights, the USNS City of Bismark is heading to Palau.

The military vessel, which is bringing more than 100 Marine Corps personnel to Palau, has already departed from Camp Pendleton Calif. It is coming through Koa Moana 20 – an ongoing endeavor. Task Force Koa Moana “will strengthen military and defense capabilities with designated nations through … operations, activities and investments and Compact of Free Association defense agreements …,” according to its website.

Specifically, it will conduct repair works at the Peleliu State airfield during part of its stay. The Marine Corps exercise is planned for July 25 to Aug. 18. 

But a June 17 resolution of Peleliu State Legislature seeks postponement of Koa Moana due to fears of COVID-19. The resolution was addressed to Minister of State Faustina Rehuher-Marugg, U.S. Ambassador John Hennessey-Niland and Gov. Temmy Shmull of Peleliu State.

The resolution cited “cases around the world.” With the U.S. having 2 million confirmed cases and more than 112,000 deaths, the Peleliu legislature asked the national government to postpone the mission.

According to the Peleliu resolution, 69 American personnel will stay in Peleliu and 31 will remain on the ship.

However, the national government said personnel will not mingle with Peleliu residents and were tested before boarding the Bismark in California.

The Bismark will be at sea for 28 days and will not make any port calls on its way to Palau. When they arrive in Palau, personnel on board will be tested for COVID-19 and another test will be conducted at the end of the mandated 14-day quarantine.

The sailors will also be quarantined at Peleliu airport while conducting repairs. mbj