Asia-Pacific Countries Opening Up Borders Lifting COVID-19 Travel Bans

Many Asia-Pacific countries have stepped up to ease the pandemic-related travel restrictions in attempts to revive their redundant economies, crippled by the COVID-19 outbreak. Countries including Australia and Japan have decided to open up their borders and led several talks with other countries in the region to ease the restrictions.

The recent moves for lifting the international travel ban, which has devastated the global airline industry, were taken since the virus infection rate in many Asia-Pacific countries had been increasingly slowing down over the months. In the contrast, many European countries have recently issued new pandemic guidelines and measures with a fresh travel restrictions due to the new wave of the virus infection cases.

Despite these new developments, many of these countries have decided to continue enforcing strict measures such as mandatory quarantine and testing for the COVID-19 for the travel returnees to avoid virus spread. Meanwhile, a travel deal was announced on Monday, October 12, 2020, between Singapore and Indonesia for essential business and official travel with a condition of the compulsory COVID-19 swab tests both before and after travel.

Australia Allowing New Zealanders

The pandemic has forced to impose restrictions on international travel, which has completely shattered the airline companies in the Asia-Pacific region, and many of these air carriers have declared insolvencies. According to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, air travel in the region had declined by up to 97% in August compared to the pre-pandemic situation.

As Australia has lifted restrictions starting Friday, New Zealanders now can travel to some parts of Australia including New South Wales, Canberra, and the Northern Territory without the quarantine hurdle. However, those New Zealanders returning from Australia had to observe quarantine for two weeks under government supervision at the cost of NZ$3100 ($2,064.91) for a single person. New Zealand, which has set a schedule for the election on October 17, has not yet ready to open up borders to Australians.

Although the move offers a positive note for the airline industry and tourism industry, experts suggested thatthe recent deal would offer a limited travel opportunities becuase of the existing threat and challenges of the virus-related issues. Nevertheless, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday, the country was in talks with Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and South Pacific nations on reopening travel.

Japan’s Initiatives for Lifting Travel Bans

Besides Australia, Japan is also planning to lift restrictions on international travel and allow its citizens to travel to countries including China, where the coronavirus pandemic have originated late last year. A daily local paper called, the Yomiuri Shimbun said, although it would still advise against non-essential travel, Japan had been in talks with 11 other countries in the region such as Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and Malaysia to start opening up borders for air travel from next month.

The daily paper mentioned on Saturday that Japan and Vietnam had entered into a deal allowing short-term business travel with each other. It also said that Japan had made similar steps for lifting business travel restrictions to Singapore and South Korea, which would start by the end of this month.

Speaking to a media, Japanese immigration official Seiji Matano said that the government had not made any decision yet but it would consider reopening traffic in a way that prevents infection. Meanwhile, the government made a move to ensure the testing capacity of about 10,000 per day at the airport for the citizens, who return from traveling abroad.