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Asia Minute: “Travel Bubbles” for Asia Pacific?

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Passengers sit on a mostly empty United Airlines flight after departing George Bush Intercontinental Airport Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Houston.

Any talk about lifting travel quarantines in Hawaii starts with neighbor island travel. But more work is planned before opening the gates to immediate entry to out of state visitors. Elsewhere in the Asia Pacific, a similar way of thinking is leading to consideration of what some are calling “travel bubbles.”

When it comes to the chances of carrying the coronavirus, not all locations are created equal. For many weeks, some countries have banned travelers from places with heavy outbreaks of COVID-19 — including the United States. Others, from Australia to Vietnam have, with very few exceptions, simply banned all foreigners.

But several countries are trying to see whether there’s a way around quarantining everyone as part of a gradual way of resuming travel. South Korea and China have arranged a special exception for certain business travelers — with a test before leaving, another on arrival, and a modified quarantine.

Korea is in discussions about potentially using similar arrangements with business travel to Vietnam and other locations.

Australia has also been talking up the idea of travel bubbles — suggesting that Australians and New Zealanders could visit each other’s countries with minimal precautions in part because the coronavirus is a t relatively low levels in both places.

Australia is also in talks with Singapore, Canada, and South Korea as well as New Zealand about an expanded travel bubble arrangement — although officials from all countries say the discussions are in the very early stages.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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