After 20 months of pandemic-induced restrictions and lockdowns, borders are in the reopening phase across Southeast Asia.

Thailand opening of its border has already boosted tourism and given a ray of hope to the region’s airline industry. More countries across Asia are now speeding up their reopening schedules to kickstart economic recovery.

By 6 December, Singapore will have 21 Vaccinated Travel Lanes system in its efforts of reopening to 16 countries. Travelers from countries like India and Indonesia will be able to enter Singapore under a quarantine free travel scheme from 29 November onwards. Additionally, travelers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar will be able to enter Singapore from 6 December onwards.

In Malaysia, international tourists have been allowed to travel to the island archipelago of Langkawi since 15 November provided they are fully vaccinated. Onward travel to other parts of Malaysia is possible after a minimum stay of 7 days in Langkawi. Malaysia also announced full reopening plans to foreigners by at least 1st January 2022.

Indonesia opened its border to travelers from 19 countries visiting Bali and the Riau Islands on October 14. Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to implement a travel corridor between them through the Vaccinated Travel Lane arrangement, but details are not finalized yet. At present, Indonesia has no other vaccinated travel lane with other countries while Malaysia announced its first vaccinated travel lane with Singapore which is due to start on November 29.

Shifting focus to Cambodia, the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, announced on 14 November that the country was opening immediately to fully vaccinated tourists without the need to quarantine. The announcement is a welcoming sign for travel trade in Siem Reap, the country’s most popular destination. At present, 87% of Cambodia’s 16.7 million population has been vaccinated.

On its part, Vietnam is lagging behind in opening its border compared to other countries in the region. This is due to the fact that just 38% of its huge 98 million population has been vaccinated so far. Nevertheless, the country plans to reopen the resort island of Phu Quoc at the end of November to fully vaccinated international travelers.

In Philippines, talks are ongoing for a quarantine-free travel bubble with South Korea. If the plan goes ahead, it would be the first travel bubble arrangement for the country since the start of the pandemic.

With all that being said, the pandemic remains a threat especially since new virus variants and even more dangerous strains might emerge in the near future. Covid-19 cases are surging in most part of Europe and the United States. But for governments in Southeast Asia, this phase is more of an experimental stage. Any significant new Covid-19 outbreak could hamper the reopening strategies in the region.


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