DestinationsAmidst a cautious approach, country-to-country bubbles and ‘green lanes’ are being negotiated

Coronavirus Travel: When are countries in Asia Pacific reopening to tourists?

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Even as destinations continue to take a cautious approach by advising against non-essential travel, country-to-country bubbles and safe “green lanes” are being negotiated.
Even as destinations continue to take a cautious approach by advising against non-essential travel, country-to-country bubbles and safe “green lanes” are being negotiated. Photo Credit: Rawf8/Getty Images

SINGAPORE – With destinations in Asia Pacific starting to come out from various stages of their COVID-19 lockdown measures, plans to ease border restrictions and welcome select travellers are on the horizon. Even as destinations continue to take a cautious approach by advising against non-essential travel, country-to-country bubbles and safe “green lanes” are being negotiated. Here’s a look at some of the latest updates:

SINGAPORE
China became the first country to establish a green lane for travel with Singapore on May 29. Since then, talks are also underway with South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia to do so. Such arrangements allow for essential business and official travel between countries. According to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Singapore is concurrently speaking to other countries on forming green lanes, although such discussions are taking place at a bilateral level, not a multilateral one.

HONG KONG / MACAU
Hong Kong could soon be launching its own health code system for residents travelling to Macau and Guangdong. Authorities in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong have been looking at ways to create a “travel bubble” to ease movement across borders as early as two months ago. At the moment, over 1,000 select business travellers have been approved for border-travel exemptions by Hong Kong’s Trade and Industry Department since early May. Once circumstances allow, the Macau SAR government plans to launch tourism campaigns in its main source markets including Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China.

THAILAND
The Thai border is firmly closed for now as the country is “still on high alert” when it comes to welcoming back foreign tourists, said Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn to CNN on May 27. He predicted that at the earliest, the return of tourists could be in the fourth quarter of this year. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has also issued a temporary ban on inbound international passenger flights till end June.

TAIWAN
Taiwan’s borders will remain shut to foreigners even as it prepares to loosen social distancing guidelines. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung at the Central Epidemic Command Center’s daily press briefing on May 27 confirmed that the current ban on the entry of foreign nationals, with the exception of some business travellers, will remain in place for the time being.

VIETNAM
With zero coronavirus-linked deaths and just 328 cases, Vietnam is considering opening its borders to foreign visitors from countries that have not reported new coronavirus cases for 30 days. The move was discussed on May 28 during a meeting of the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control in Hanoi. There are, however, plans to limit the destinations that tourists can visit to some islands in the country such as Phu Quoc.
Reciprocal travel bubbles with China and South Korea are also in the works with the two markets accounting for 55 per cent of inbound arrivals.

JAPAN
Japan is considering easing entry restrictions on tourists from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand as early as summer, reported Yomiuri Shimbun. Visitors would be required to carry documentation showing they had tested negative for the virus before departing their countries, and would need to be re-tested upon arrival in Japan.

SOUTH KOREA
On May 1, South Korea and China launched a “fast-track” plan to allow business travellers moving between 10 Chinese regions and South Korea, on the condition that they test negative for Covid-19 prior to departure and upon arrival. More than 1,000 have used the fast-track entry, and there are plans to include more Chinese regions in the agreement, said a South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman to Straits Times on May 28.

AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND
When international travel resumes, New Zealand is expected to be the first country to join Australia in a travel agreement. Australians and New Zealanders could soon visit their neighbours as early as September under a joint trans-Tasman bubble which may include other Pacific Island nations such as Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Details of the joint plan is expected to be released in early-June, reported Guardian.

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