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Asia Minute: Mask rules easing in Asia-Pacific, but travel remains subdued

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AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit
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More countries around the world are easing restrictions on mask-wearing. But so far, international travel in much of the Asia-Pacific remains subdued.

Last week, Vietnam changed some of the rules when it comes to masks.

They're no longer required in grocery stores or restaurants, or in outdoor areas including parks and stadiums.

Masks are still the law on public transport, in hospitals, and for workers who come in direct contact with others at tourism destinations.

Malaysia made a similar move last week — building on an earlier change that eased restrictions on wearing masks outdoors.

Now, except for public transport and medical facilities, masks are optional for most people.

It’s a similar story these days in Thailand and Singapore — although the Straits Times reports many customer-facing staff are keeping their masks on.

While restrictions are coming down, visitor numbers are not yet going up in a significant way.

Last month, the United Nations World Tourism Organization reported the Asia-Pacific is experiencing the slowest travel recovery of any part of the world.

One major factor: very few Chinese are traveling outside their country — and that’s taking a heavy regional toll.

The UNWTO says that international arrivals are off by nearly a third in Europe compared to 2019 — but in the Asia Pacific, they're down 90%.

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