Officials are gearing up to make quarantine-free business travel throughout Southeast Asia a reality.
Barely a day into the 37th ASEAN Summit, the leaders of the Southeast Asian bloc’s 10 member states have issued a joint declaration agreeing to set up a framework for a future ASEAN travel corridor. This will allow essential business travel between all countries involved, though ASEAN leaders stressed “the need to develop a common set of pre-departure and post-arrival health and safety measures” before it is rolled out.
At the summit’s opening ceremony yesterday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in his opening remarks: “In implementing our twofold task of fighting the pandemic and promoting recovery, we will officially adopt the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its Implementation Plan … In the short term, we may consider the reopening of the ASEAN lane for our citizens at the airports.”
Indonesia first submitted a proposal to create a pan-ASEAN travel corridor back in June, with Thailand and Malaysia signaling their support for the move. President Joko Widodo said he hoped the new travel arrangements would become operational in the first quarter of 2021, and asked the ASEAN Coordinating Council to move quickly to establish temporary fast lanes and set out strict guidelines on health protocols. “The people cannot wait any longer,” he urged, “they want to see our region revive.”
The upcoming scheme will not allow leisure travel and the unrestricted flow of people between ASEAN countries; that is unthinkable given the different situations in each member state. Along with Thailand and Vietnam, Singapore has practically stamped out community transmission of the virus, with new cases detected solely in incoming travelers who are tested on arrival and quarantined for two weeks. By contrast, worst-hit Indonesia is seeing between 3,000 and 4,500 confirmed infections a day. The daily count of new cases also remains high in the Philippines, while Malaysia and Myanmar have been facing their own surges of Covid-19 infections in the past few weeks.