Back in June, Thailand authorities announced plans to form a ‘travel bubble’ with the likes of New Zealand, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam and some countries in the Middle East, with each country adopting health screening measures for arriving visitors. However, plans have had to be revised due to an increased number of outbreaks in these destinations.
“We are delaying discussion of travel bubble arrangements for now given the outbreak situation in other countries,” Thailand’s coronavirus taskforce spokesman, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, told Reuters. “Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were among those considered because those areas had a low number of cases, but now they were in double-digits, so discussions were put on hold.”
Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were among those considered because those areas had a low number of cases, but now they were in double-digits, so discussions were put on hold
In response to this development, the island of Phuket – which is among those islands that Thailand has been promoting luxury tourism packages to, and is where the construction of a medical hub for international travellers is currently underway – suggested it could receive direct flights from those countries which were originally intended to be part of the travel bubble, with tourists and business executives completing two-week quarantines in their hotels before going out.
“We are asking for travel, charter flights, into Phuket,” Phuket Tourist Association President Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, told Reuters. In this instance, demand for stays may be lower, but it would no doubt help Thailand’s struggling economy, which could lose out to 1.6 trillion baht (US$51.50 billion) of revenue this year, as foreign arrivals plunged 66 per cent in the first six months of the year.
And Thailand is not the only country in Asia struggling with the restrictions brought about by Covid-19, Malaysia and Singapore have been told that they need to streamline the standard operating procedures (SOPs) before allowing cross-border travel between the two destinations.
Malaysian Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said both countries should come to a mutual agreement on how to manage the risk of Covid-19 infections. “Not everyone in Singapore [will be] allowed in, it is a big ‘no’ to the working group of foreign workers in the country,” he said at a webinar. “Perhaps Singaporeans and expats living there for more than six months, they can come in.”
Dr Noor Hisham also added that talks over Malaysia’s travel agreements with Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand were still ongoing, and that business travel looked to be the most promising option to begin with, as it was more conducive to potential needs to quarantine.
In India, the government has extended its suspension of scheduled international flights unto the end of August, although the travel bubbles that the country has set up with the US, Germany and France will continue to operate, and the country is also considering establishing similar arrangements with the UK and Canada
“To allow gradual movement of passenger traffic during the Covid-19 situation, ‘transport bubble’ agreements have been signed with [the US], France and Germany,” Indian regulatory body the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a statement. “Recently, [a] ‘transport bubble’ agreement has also been signed with Kuwait to uplift stranded passengers both to/from India. More similar arrangements are likely to fructify and ease passenger movements from different countries.”