Asia-Pacific countries lay groundwork for cross-border travel

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With the resumption of domestic travel well under way in many Asia-Pacific markets, attention is now shifting to reopening international links within the region.

This is a much more complex proposition, and some governments are taking tentative steps towards establishing a framework for international travel in a post-COVID world.

Air travel virtually ground to a halt across Asia-Pacific in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The few international flights offered have mostly been focused on cargo and repatriation, with most foreign travellers blocked by border closures or dissuaded by 14-day quarantine requirements. Most airlines have cut their overseas networks right back and are only operating limited frequencies on a handful of routes.

However, many countries in the region have made good progress in controlling COVID-19, prompting them to restart scheduled airline operations to help spur economic recovery. The conventional wisdom is that domestic service will re-emerge first in most markets, followed by short haul international, then finally long haul routes.

Discussions have begun between some Asia-Pacific governments about easing border and quarantine restrictions to allow essential travel. These will initially be bilateral arrangements between countries so that procedures and safeguards can be rigorously monitored.

But the early deals will likely expand to multilateral agreements among countries that have made similar progress in controlling COVID-19. In the longer term, these can also be expected to pave the way for broader agreements that would include non-essential travel.

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