KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 27 (AFP) — Thailand’s re-opening to vaccinated foreign tourists marks a major easing of border controls for Asia, where governments have been far slower to roll back coronavirus travel curbs than in much of the West.
Here is a look at which countries are opening up across the Asia-Pacific region and those staying sealed off from the world.
Thailand will allow vaccinated travelers from 46 countries and territories to enter the kingdom without quarantining from Monday, as it seeks to revive its vital tourism industry.
Other parts of the region — which largely escaped the pandemic’s initial wave, only to be hit hard this year — are following its lead, albeit at a slower pace.
Business hub Singapore has started quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated travelers from 10 countries, including the United States and several European countries, and will add more soon.
Indonesia re-opened the resort island of Bali this month to tourists from select countries although, with travelers still required to do a five-day quarantine on arrival, the scheme has had a slow start.
Vietnam plans to allow foreign visitors entry to the holiday island of Phu Quoc from next month and Malaysia has a similar plan for Langkawi island, while Cambodia will reopen beach spots Sihanoukville, Koh Rong and Dara Sakor from November 30.
Some countries, including the Philippines and Myanmar, remain closed to foreign tourists.
Mainland China, where Covid-19 first emerged last year, remains closed to overseas tourists, as is Japan.
South Korea has started accepting visitors from 49 countries. A negative coronavirus test is required for all arrivals, with a limited exemption from a 14-day quarantine for those vaccinated in South Korea.
Some of the world’s toughest measures have been implemented in Hong Kong — with a maximum 21-day quarantine for incoming travelers — which has kept virus cases low but crippled the travel industry.
Recovering from a devastating surge earlier this year, India re-opened for foreign tourists on charter flights this month and will allow in visitors on all flights from mid-November.
Fully vaccinated travelers no longer have to undergo home quarantine, provided they are arriving from countries with which India has reciprocal arrangements for acceptance of WHO-approved vaccines.
Last month, Nepal started issuing visas on arrival for vaccinated tourists and dropped quarantine requirements as it seeks to lure back foreign trekkers to its mountains.
More than a million tourists visited the Himalayan country in 2019 — but numbers dropped by 80 percent last year.
Among the first countries to reopen borders was the popular holiday destination of the Maldives, which started allowing in foreign tourists in July last year.
The number of tourists visiting the Indian Ocean atoll nation recovered to 500,000 last year following the re-opening, and authorities expect 1.5 million holidaymakers this year — just shy of the figure in 2019.
Sri Lanka opened its international borders for fully vaccinated tourists without any quarantine requirements on October 7, while Pakistan allows in foreign visitors as long as they have proof of vaccination and a negative Covid-19 test.
Australia and the Pacific
Australia introduced some of the world’s toughest border restrictions in response to the pandemic, banning citizens from travelling overseas without permission.
But the government announced Wednesday that the ban would be lifted, with the country’s border also set to open to skilled workers and international students by year’s end.
New Zealand remains closed to foreign visitors, with no date for reopening.
The South Pacific nation of Fiji, whose economy is heavily tourism-dependent, will allow vaccinated travelers from countries across Europe and Asia to enter quarantine-free, as well as those from the United States, starting December 1.