Asia COVID-19 Updates – EXO Travel Blog
Summer in the northern hemisphere has come and gone and it brought a solid return to wider travel. Vaccination levels in Europe and the US, while plateauing, have still allowed governments to lift most movement restrictions domestically and for outbound travel. The opening of the US in November and the unexpected earlier opening from Australia are further strong signals that the will to make travel happen again is strong.
Many destinations have thrown the doors open for vaccinated travelers with no or minimal checks, while others still impose different levels of control. Proof of vaccination or testing is required almost universally and it certainly will be easiest for vaccinated travelers going forward.
The outlook for a return to international travel to Asia while more positive is slow as entry is comparatively more complicated and not hassle-free as elsewhere.
When to expect an opening in Asia?
By mid-October, only Thailand, Singapore and theoretically Bali are open for vaccinated tourists. More movements are expected from Cambodia, Laos and Japan over the next weeeks.
1o% of requests we receive currently are still asking for travel dates in Q4 2021, 65% are for the first half of 2022 and the remaining 25% for H2 2022 and 2023. So, by and large, we expect 2022 onwards to be seen as Asia’s ‘reopening period.’
Can I book now?
YES, it is possible to book trips with any of our destinations for end 2021 and 2022. Our flexible COVID terms require no deposit and bookings can be changed and canceled up to 14 days before arrival to make it easier to plan travel.
The first travel phase after the reopening will see few or no tourists on the sites and the opportunity for upgrades and preferential treatment as hotels will be keen to pamper the first tourists.
What will be the entry requirements?
As a guideline, adult travelers will need to be fully vaccinated. Regulations for children vary from country to country but most require only a negative PCR test 72 hrs before travel.
On top of vaccine proof, requirements include a valid visa, a valid passport, proof of insurance (100,000 USD), and a negative COVID test 72 hrs before travel. Requirements may evolve; our specialists can let you know of the latest.
What will traveling be like in-country?
Once in-country travelers should expect to still follow standard hygiene measures like wearing masks in public places and frequent hand-sanitizing, even if vaccinated. Guides and drivers will be wearing masks and hotels will practice contactless check-ins. Remember that a big part of the local population you travel in may still not be fully vaccinated, although EXO guides and drivers will be fully vaccinated.
Below see the most recent recap of the status of our 9 destinations.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the ongoing situation, many of our staff are working remotely from home or are on part-time leave. While we try to still respond very quickly, there could be moments where replies come a bit slower than usual. Please send us a mail to [email protected] to let us know. Thank you for understanding!
Hygiene and security (next to flexibility) will be major factors for our clients for travel going forward.
We have set up Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with and across our supply chain, in accordance with SAFE TRAVEL guidelines set out by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). This starts with measures that will be taken by our staff, ground teams, guides, and drivers and we are working with all our suppliers (hotels, restaurants, sites, airlines) regarding their best practices as well as participating in panels of tourism companies in our countries focused on preparing corona-safe travel.
The measures will certainly change and evolve as the situation evolves. For now, please see the details of our safe travel efforts HERE.
See also the very good resource on Coronavirus data in SE Asia here: SE Asia country info from Pear Anderson
The rolling 7-day average of infections hovers now under the 10,000 mark for new cases per day, down from 20+ thousand a month ago. Thailand had imposed a lockdown mid-July and has also been pushing vaccinations to counter the surge.
From the 1st of October, Thailand has shortened the quarantine requirement for vaccinated travelers from 14 to 7 days and from 14 to 10 days for unvaccinated travelers. Additionally plans are under way to eliminate quarantines completely from 1st of November for vaccinated travelers. Details of which countries will qualify and what is required for entry are still being worked out!
VACCINATION: The vaccination campaign has kicked into overdrive from the beginning of June and is currently inoculating around a million people per day across the country. Vaccines used are Astra Zeneca, Sinovac, Sinopharm and Pfizer.
Japan has successfully hosted the postponed Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. Overall it has been very uplifting to see this global event take place and it showcases Japan’s skills and determination to face and overcome the virus and all its related complications.
The number of infections now is below the 1,000 mark, down from a peak of 20+ thousand one month ago. The emergency measures in place since July have been lifted completely. Everybody is waiting for an announcement of a possible opening, once the elections planned for the end of October are done.
VACCINE PLANS Japan’s vaccinations while having started slowly they are now steadily growing ahead and have reached 70% of the population by mid-October.
Singapore changed its approach to the pandemic in June in order to treat it as endemic, moving away from a Zero-case policy and towards a strategy of ‘living with the virus’. Cases have been hitting new highs of 1000 per day recently in spite of a 80% vaccination rate but they affect mainly unvaccinated people and in most cases remain mild. Monitoring now focuses on serious cases requiring hospitalisation and available hospital beds. Reciprocal travel lanes have been opened for a total of 10 countries for vaccinated travelers.
VACCINE PLANS: Singapore has already reached the 80% threshold for fully vaccinated people with a mix of Oxford/Astra Zeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines basis.
Cambodia has managed to contain local outbreaks over the last weeks and months and the current average of infections is around 500 per day. Cambodia has an outstanding vaccination record, 2nd to only Singapore in Asia, and Phnom Penh is one of the most vaccinated capitals with more than 95% of adults covered.
The government has reopened applications for E-visas and there is a possibility that Cambodia could reopen for vaccinated travelers by Q4 2021 in Siem Reap as the government is trying to revive the suffering tourism sector.
VACCINE PLANS: Cambodia has made excellent progress inoculating its population mainly with Chinese-made Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. It is currently in the top 5 of the world in speed of vaccination.
Malaysia is the other vaccination success story after Singapore and Cambodia. It has passed the marker of 60% of the population and case numbers are around 16,000 per day (7-day average) as of mid-Sep 2021. Most states had been in full lockdown with domestic travel very restricted but Langkawi has seen an opening for domestic travel and inter-provincial travel is now allowed again!
VACCINE PLANS: Malaysia is currently in the Top 3 in Asia. It could reach the 70% mark before the end of the year.
Laos continues to fight local infections reaching on average 500 cases per day (mostly in and around Vientiane). Vientiane and Luang Prabang are in lockdown and no domestic travel is possible currently.
VACCINE PLANS: Laos is making good progress and should be able to reach 70% before the end of the year.
Vietnam has seen a surge in local infections since June and many cities did go through a very strict lockdown. Around 4,000 cases per day are counted now, down from a peak of up to 20,000. Strict military-style lockdowns saw the army delivering food to many parts of HCMC in an impressive logistics effort. The lockdowns have now been lifted and life returns to the streets in the main cities.
Some talks in the media mention a possible opening of the country to vaccinated travelers, but that will very much be depending on how the situation evolves and how vaccinations proceed. We do not see a realistic chance for Vietnam to open before the end of 2021, but the island of Phu Quoc stays on track to welcome vaccinated travelers before the end of 2021.
VACCINE PLANS: Vietnam has after a late start kicked its vaccination campaign into high gear. Currently, 8-900,00 people are getting inoculated per day. The 70% goal could be reached by Feb 2022.
Indonesia has come down from a July peak of 40K infections to less than 1000 by mid-October. A remarkable turnaround. More than 1.6 mill people are vaccinated every day and Bali has achieved the 80% mark. Bali’s airport is officially open since 14th October but no foreign airline is yet scheduled to arrive before early November.
The quarantine period is set at 5 days and 19 countries can fly directly into Bali instead of having to travel via Jakarta. On arrival visas are not possible now and visas have to be applied online or at Indonesian Embassies
VACCINE PLANS: Indonesia is managing 1.5 million doses per day with a 70% goal reachable currently by June 2022, but a focus on Bali vaccinations may allow a limited reopening for tourism earlier.
On Monday 1st February 2021, the civilian government was abruptly ousted and a military government took power claiming that the elections from Nov 2020 were manipulated. Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint were arrested. The army has imposed a state of emergency of 1 year has been declared before new elections are to be held.
Civilian protests did take place in every corner of Myanmar and civil disobedience protests were led in a peaceful and determined atmosphere until the government resorted to a violent crackdown from the end of February until May. Nighttime arrests, detention without warrants, abductions, beatings of medical personnel, and shooting of unarmed civilians have been the norm since. Up to 1000 fatalities were counted and over 8000 have been arrested. The elected leaders remain under house arrest, local and foreign journalists remain detained and the announced election date has been pushed back to 2 years. Myanmar has been pushed back by decades.
Please see the section Myanmar News section of our blog for the latest update on the situation.
VACCINATIONS: Myanmar’s efforts to source vaccines were focused on China and India as well as assistance from the Covax initiative. The campaign started on solid footing until the February events and currently, Myanmar has fallen to the bottom of SE-Asian efforts to contain the virus.
With all of the uncertainty going around, we know there are a lot of questions. Here are answers to some of the more common ones and please do contact us directly if you have other questions.
Safety is our utmost concern. As such, our best advice is to follow the advice of the WHO, the CDC and other government institutions.
By taking sensible precautions such as wearing a face mask and regularly washing hands, the real-life risk of contracting the virus remains minimal.
Preparedness is the first step in ensuring guests’ safety. Prior to arrival, guests are encouraged to purchase masks and hand-sanitiser from their home countries. Additionally, they are briefed on sensible precautions to take such as washing their hands frequently, avoiding crowded areas, to avoid touching their faces. Wearing masks even in open spaces is compulsory in some of our destinations and we do encourage guests to wear face masks when they are out in public as a sign of respect given that all locals do wear masks. Our guides and drivers will also be wearing face masks when interacting with guests.
Travel plans can be flexibly postponed to any later date. We will facilitate future arrangements at no cost from our side and negotiate on a case-by-case basis with suppliers should they not be willing to offer the same flexibility.
We hold paid deposits as credit for any future booking and allow maximum flexibility in rerouting to any other EXO destinations. In case a hotel/airline or other supplier makes the credit nominative (applicable only to the same passenger name), we will negotiate on a case-by-case basis.
When non-refundable payments and deposits have been mentioned in the booking process, these will remain in place until suppliers change their policies .
Yes, you can book travel for the end of 21 and all of 2022 as there are no deposits to be made and we are flexible to change dates, should the country not reopen in time.
LINKS TO CURRENT TRAVEL ADVISORIES BY SELECTED COUNTRY
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