All of Southeast Asia Now Closed to Foreign Tourists

ASEAN, coronavirus, borders, lockdown

The end of last week has seen most governments closing their borders to foreign travellers -including the ones coming from other ASEAN countries- while some countries are now in partial or total lockdown. 

It took a month for most southeast Asian governments to realize that the COVID-19 virus was not only a Chinese or more recently a European issue but a world problem. In a week time, Coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia has literally skyrocketed. While the 10 countries and Timor Leste recorded a total of 310 cases and 2 deceased on March 7, the number had already jumped to 839 cases and 14 deceased on March 14. On March 21, ASEAN + Timor Leste had 3,540 cases while the total of people who died of the virus is slowly approaching 90. Unfortunately, more casualties are to be expected. On March 25, the total number of cases in Southeast Asia had further jumped to 4,962 on March 25 with Laos and Myanmar recording their first cases.

Interestingly, while the coronavirus mostly affected Singapore 138 recorded cases on March 7 (however with no dead), Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have now more cases. Malaysia has the highest number of infected cases at 1,306, followed by both Thailand and Indonesia with over 500 cases. Miracle or not, only Lao PDR and Myanmar have so far recorded a small number of COVI-19 victims, less than five for each country, as recorded on March 25, 2020.

As the pandemic expanded, many countries last week decided to shut their borders.  Vietnam and Brunei were the first countries to impose a closure of its borders to most travellers from Europe and some Asian countries ten days ago. Since then the ban is affecting all travellers. It has been followed by Malaysia since Wednesday, March 18 and then by Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and by Thailand. After restricting travelling to Manila and then Luzon Island, the Philippines finally extended a ban on all foreign travellers since Sunday. This Monday, Singapore closed its borders to any foreign visitor except Malaysians working in the city-state. Even passengers in transit will not be anymore allowed at Changi airport. Many countries are also requesting COVID-19 non contamination certificates, a document sometimes difficult to produce as testing are often only reserved for people showing potential symptoms of the disease.

Nobody knows for now how long all of these temporary measures will last although some countries speak only of two weeks or one month closure. But something is really sure. Over the next couple of weeks, the region will be virtually free of any tourists. A situation which probably did not happen since World War II !