During the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel in Asia has seen a drastic decline due to border closures, with passenger numbers in August down by 97 percent, as reported by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.

In Asia, there has been a gradual relaxation of travel restrictions, but not always on a bilateral basis. A recent agreement between Singapore and Indonesia for essential business and official travel, announced on Monday, requires an application process and COVID-19 swab tests before and after travel.

Singapore has already established similar agreements with China, South Korea, Japan, and Malaysia, and has unilaterally opened its borders to general visitors from New Zealand, Brunei, Vietnam, and most of Australia. However, Singapore’s Transport Minister, Ong Ye Kung, stated in parliament this month that the number of travelers remains relatively small, with the country’s main airport operating at only 1.5 percent of its usual passenger volume.

New Zealanders will soon be able to travel to certain parts of Australia without undergoing quarantine, starting from Friday. However, upon their return, they will be required to quarantine for two weeks under government supervision at their own expense.

New Zealand has stated that it currently does not plan to open its borders to Australians. Meanwhile, Australia is in discussions with Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and South Pacific nations regarding the possibility of reopening travel as the number of coronavirus cases decreases.

Japan and Vietnam are set to allow short-term business travel between the two countries by the end of October, according to the Yomiuri daily. Japan is also planning to lift its ban on overseas travel to China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and Malaysia next month, although it will still advise against non-essential travel to these destinations.

Many of the countries that Japan potentially allows travel to currently prohibit the entry of non-citizens and non-residents. Japan itself permits citizens, residents, and visa holders to re-enter the country after testing negative for COVID-19 at the airport, with a capacity of approximately 10,000 per day.

Thailand is also preparing to receive its first groups of more than 100 Chinese tourists this month. These tourists will undergo pre-flight testing and a 14-day quarantine at government-approved hotels, with two COVID tests conducted during the quarantine period. Additionally, they will be required to download a GPS and Bluetooth-based tracking app, which is yet to be launched.

China, where the outbreak originated, recently allowed foreigners with valid residence permits to re-enter the country and established business travel corridors with Singapore and South Korea. However, most arrivals are still prohibited.

Source: Jamie Freed/ 7news/ AAP