NEWS Round Up May 13-May 20

COVID-19, ASEAN, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, air transport

Latest developments show a slow return to normalcy as ASEAN countries start to lift up restrictions put in place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 



As Cambodia has officially recorded 0 death and no COVID-19 cases for three weeks, the government is now relaxing travel restrictions previously put in place. Starting May 20, foreigners from Iran, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US who were banned from entering Cambodia with the start of the pandemic are now allowed to visit the Kingdom as normal. They were previously banned from entering the Kingdom. Although those travellers are allowed into the country, they have to produce certificates confirming that they are non contaminated by COVID-19. The certificates are to be released by health authorities recognised by the governments of each country within 72 hours of arriving in Cambodia. Health insurance is also required of a least US$50,000 during the stay in Cambodia.

The government will conduct as well its own tests on foreign travellers. “All travellers, including Cambodians and foreigners who arrive in Cambodia must be sent to waiting rooms to test for Covid-19 and wait for a result from the Pasteur Institute. In case one or many travellers are detected with Covid-19, other passengers on the same trip must be quarantined for 14 days. If results prove positive, Covid-19 passengers are allowed to be quarantined for 14 days at their homes under the monitoring of local authorities and health officials, and they are required to be tested again on day 13 of the quarantine,” highlights the Ministry of Health.

In another development, the ministry has also decided to reopen more than 30 museums across the country for national and international visitors starting next month.



Indonesia’s iconic island of Bali could reopen to tourists in October, thanks to its success in controlling the coronavirus outbreak, the Indonesian government indicated last week.

As of Friday, Bali had reported 371 COVID cases and four deaths, a much lower fatality rate compared with 19,189 cases and 1,242 deaths for the entire archipelago on May 20.

If the infection curve improves, the tourism ministry is looking to reopen some of the most important tourism destinations, starting most probably with Bali, between June and October according to a statement of the Ministry of Tourism. Until October, the government could also reopen to foreign travellers the Riau Islands (Batam and Bintan) as well as Yogyakarta as COVID-19 cases remain relatively low, according to official data.



The Penang government has proposed to implement a ‘travel bubble’ approach between states declared as green zones to help the tourism sector recover.

The concept, which has also been proposed in Australia and New Zealand, is designed to ease into resuming travel and restart tourism industries while adapting to the new normal.

“As Penang is currently practising the Gradual Recovery Strategy, this could be a viable solution to begin with, rather than opening all our borders at once and risking transmission again, which will bring us back to square one and bring to waste the efforts to contain the virus which took us months long,” he said.

On the other hand, Yeoh said the initial stage of the concept would only be limited to tourist attractions in Penang before expanding into other states.“We could kick-start the tourism economy gradually, but through constant monitoring of the progress before we proceed, as it is a state priority to ensure that the state remains a green zone before Penang opens its tourism borders to welcome others,” he said, adding that the proposed approach will be raised during the upcoming tourism task force meeting.

(Source: Bernama)



Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT) is preparing for the revival and reopening of tourism in the country once areas are classified as safe for travel. During a hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the Impact of COVID-19, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat presented a situation on the country’s tourism industry and response measures undertaken by the department to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.

“It is important that we embrace the new normal and equip our industry stakeholders with the appropriate tools and knowledge to recover and succeed in the post-lockdown era,” Puyat said during the hearing.

Early preparation will help the tourism sector transition properly and safely once travel restrictions have been lifted and domestic travel resumes for all areas. The department will identify the destinations which will be under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) standards, and where activities can be contained and better managed. Visiting tourists will follow the local government units’ rules on strict entry guidelines.

“The safety and well-being of both the tourists and residents alike have always been the priority of the DOT. In our Tourism Response and Recovery Plan (TRRP), we have prepared initial safety plans and protocols for travelers and tourism enterprises for the new normal in travel following the community quarantine,” Puyat declared. The TRRP was made in coordination with the respective national agencies and private sector tourism stakeholders.

Defined safety measures would be the following:

1. Regular sanitation and disinfection of accommodation (hotels, resorts, etc.), tourist transport services, and tourism-related establishments such as meeting and exhibit venues, restaurants, spas, and the like.

2. Provision of sanitation/disinfecting devices, including PPE, for tourism workers.

3. Regular inspections of tourism establishments that will involve relevant agencies about health and safety standards.

4. Implementation of physical distancing measures for tourist transportation and limiting the customer capacity of accommodation and tourism-related enterprises.

In 2018, the tourism industry made up 12.7% of the Philippines GDP and provided 5.4 million jobs for Filipinos. Last year, the tourism industry reached a record of 8.26 million foreign tourists. For the first four months of 2020, foreign arrivals decreased 54.02%.

(Source: DOT)



Singapore government is looking to ease the lockdown in the city state and allow more movements for travellers. From June 2, Changi Airport will again gradually allow travellers to transit through its still operating terminals. The move is part of the strategy to progressively reopen air transport to meet the needs of Singapore’s economy and people, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) declared on Wednesday, May 20. Currently, foreign passengers may transit through Singapore only if they are on repatriation flights arranged by their governments.

Airlines will have to submit proposals for secured transfer lanes implementing the highest health safety standards. Stringent measures will also be implemented to be sure that passengers remain in dedicated transit areas and do not mix with other passengers flows. More details will soon be made available.

In another development, on May 16, airport authorities decided to close down temporarily Terminal 4, leaving only Terminal 1 and 3 in operation for the time being.



As Thai Airways International is in an extremely difficult position with losses of over US$380 million in 2019 and an accumulated  debts equivalent to US$ 7.8 billion, the government is accelerating the restructuring of the carrier.

The Cabinet approved Thai Airways International plan to file a rehabilitation plan with the Central Bankruptcy Court after the government decided against extending a rescue loan to the heavily indebted state-owned airline amid a public outcry as tax money has been used extensively over the last decade to help restructuring the airline- with no effective result to date!

Under the court-supervised rehabilitation process, the carrier will continue to fly, but will restructure drastically the airline. Both the fleet and the staff will be downsized. They are rumours speaking of the lay-off of 6,000 people on a total of 22,000. The Finance Ministry announced also to sell 3.17% of its stake to the state-run Vayupak 1 Fund, with the aim of stripping the airline of its state enterprise status. The end of the state enterprise status will free the national carrier from legal restrictions for its restructuring.

After vehemently opposing any change in the airline’s status, Thai Airways’ union accepted the outcome which means also that it will be dissolved. A new union will be formed in accordance with labour laws. Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared in a rare Twitter thread in English language that the court will appoint professionals  to strictly monitor the airline’s restructuring process.



Vietnam Airlines from June 2020 is resuming International service, initially offering flights to Seoul. Due to travel restrictions, the airline is only accepting reservations for departure from Vietnam. The airline will offer two flight a week from Hanoi to Seoul Incheon as well as from Ho Chi Minh City to the Korean capital.  The airline is also expecting to launch a new route next July, linking Ho Chi Minh City to Hangzhou with four weekly services from July 2, using an Airbus A321. The carrier is also looking at serving from July the new airport of Beijing Daxing with a daily frequency from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.