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All you need to know as ASEAN opens up to travel post-COVID-19

All you need to know as ASEAN opens up to travel post-COVID-19


As countries across ASEAN enter the first stages of re-opening, countries across the region have started issuing travel advisories over the past week. Here’s what you need to know.

Click here to jump directly to each update: 

Ongoing discussions for Malaysians working in Singapore to commute from Johor Baru

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that Malaysians working in Singapore may soon be allowed to resume commuting to and from Johor Baru, provided they download the MySejahtera app (aimed at managing the Covid-19 pandemic in the country).

According to NST, Ismail Sabri said that the initiative will only be implemented after discussions between Foreign Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri M. Shahrul Ikram Yaakob and his Singaporean counterpart.

He noted “Currently, they are unable to do so due to the border closure and the 14-day mandatory quarantine requirement for those returning to Malaysia.

"However, as Singapore's economic sector has reopened, a special ministerial meeting has agreed to allow this, and we are ready for them (Malaysians) to undergo Covid-19 screening and tests.”

He also expressed the country's gratitude towards the Sultan Ibrahim Foundation as well as Temasek and Tomson Medical Group, which have agreed to provide two mobile labs and Covid-19 test kits.

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Indonesia issues requirements for people looking to travel within or into the country

In a circular (No. 7/2020) issued by Indonesia’s national COVID-19 task force, various requirements have been set for people looking to travel within or into the country during the transition to the ‘new normal’.

According to a Jakarta Post report, the requirements include abiding and implementing health protocols, wearing face masks, installing the government-made Peduli Lindungi application, and more.

The full set of requirements are as follows:

  • Across the board, travellers are required to:
    • Abide by and implement health protocols, including wearing face masks and following physical distancing measures during their trips.
  • Those going on inter-provincial trips using public transportation are required to:
    • Show their ID cards, along with health certificates stating they are COVID-19-negative after undergoing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid tests.
    • Those in areas without PCR or rapid test facilities can present health certificates issued by hospitals or community health centres (Puskesmas] showing they are free from influenza-like illnesses.
    • Have the government-made Peduli Lindungi application installed and activated on their mobile phones at the time of departure.
  • Travellers arriving in Indonesia from abroad are required to:
    • Present COVID-19-free health certificates.
    • Those who have yet to obtain a certificate will have to undergo COVID-19 tests upon arrival. They will also be required to stay at government-provided quarantine facilities while awaiting the results.

The new circular letter overrides previous letters No. 4/2020 and No. 5/2020 on travel restrictions during the handling of COVID-19.

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Thailand to create 'travel bubbles' after borders open on 30 June

In a briefing on Tuesday attended by the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha revealed plans to create ‘travel bubbles’ through bilateral agreements. This is to keep COVID-19 in check when the country’s borders reopen.

He said that once the situation improves, travel will be allowed between countries that Thailand has an agreement with, adding that no such pacts have been reached yet.

On the reason for restricting free movement, he said: “There won’t be free movement because we don’t want another outbreak that could hurt both the origin and the destination.”

Currently, Thailands borders are restricted under a state of emergency that will last till end of this month (30 June). As such, most incoming international flights have been banned.

As the country nears the end of the state of emergency, and with new COVID-19 cases dwindling, officials are easing the lockdown and contemplating over measures to restart its crucial tourism sector in an effort to counter a recession.

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Singapore to reopen borders to China for essential business travel

At a media briefing for the reopening of international borders last week (3 June), Gabriel Lim, Singapore's Permanent Secretary Of Trade And Industry, announced the resumption of essential business travel between Singapore and China.

In his opening remarks, he said: "Having retained and preserved our supply chain, the next step to take would be to restore some of our people flows between countries. This is the broad context or driver for our Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) arrangements with other countries and regions."

The RGL will be launched with China first, starting with essential travels for official and business reasons. Travel requirements include a testing protocol, a tracking protocol with TraceTogether, as well as some form of a controlled itinerary and sponsorship by the host entities.

Travellers from China to Singapore

Protocol for travellers entering Singapore from China are as follows: 

  • Reach out to a government agency or business entity in Singapore as their sponsor, and the sponsor will then apply for a SafeTravel Pass on behalf of the traveller.
  • After obtaining the SafeTravel Pass, the traveller should then proceed to apply for a visa, unless they do not need to, in which case the SafeTravel Pass approval will be enough.
  • In preparation for departure from China, they will have to monitor their health and take a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test within 48 hours before their departure from China and make sure that the test results are clear.
  • Another PCR test has to be taken when the traveller lands in Singapore.
  • If both tests are clear, the traveller can proceed with the approved itinerary while in Singapore.
  • The sponsoring agency or organisation will see to it that they are managing their movements, as well as making the transportation arrangements and so on.
  • All of the visitors in Singapore will need to use TraceTogether.

The above are, broadly, the protocols for category A travellers. More details will be released shortly.

Travellers from Singapore to China

Travellers going to China from Singapore will broadly follow the same process but in reverse.

  • Travellers will have to get a letter from the Chinese sponsor (i.e. government agency or business entity).
  • Post-approval, they are required to apply to the Chinese embassy for a visa, if necessary.
  • A PCR test has to be taken 48 hours before the flight and be cleared before they can board.
  • When travellers land in China, they will also be subject to another test.
  • For the period they are in China, they will be looked after by the sponsoring agencies or organisation to ensure that their itinerary is as per filed.
  • They will also have to use China’s Health QR Code system.

The above are the broad strokes of the protocols and are designed to allow travel to resume but in a safe way and to minimise the risk of transmission of viruses into the hosting community. More details will be shared subsequently.

"More importantly, for those who are keen to apply for RGL, we will make things very clear for them when we open up for applications," Lim said.

He added that the protocols will continue to be refined along the way as the situation evolves and as the Government gets more experience operationalising the RGL arrangements.

On the reason for starting with China, Lim said: "We are starting with China, who is an important and long-standing partner. China is one of our biggest trading partners. We are also one of the largest sources of foreign investment in China. There are thousands of people working in each other’s economy. There are even more people who travel for official and business reasons between the two countries. This is the important reason why we have put in place the RGL arrangement with China."

The Singapore government remains in negotiation with a number of other countries and regions to establish similar RGL arrangements.

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 Photo / iStock

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