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The Suez Canal remains closed Friday—as crews work to free a huge container ship that got stuck in a sandstorm. While the incident has sent ripples of concern around the world, it has particular impact for some in the Asia Pacific.

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More people are making travel plans for the future, but right now international trips remain difficult. Many countries are not even accepting visitors, while others require lengthy quarantines. But in Southeast Asia, one long-planned alternative has now opened for business.

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Tourists are still trickling into Hawaii in relatively small numbers under the Safe Travels Program. That allows visitors with a negative Covid test to bypass quarantine. But another location in the Pacific is rampin gup a different kind of visitor program.

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Every week, the fight against COVID-19 continues on many fronts — from wearing masks to distributing vaccines. In parts of Asia, one focus that's now less than a month away is the Lunar New Year. It's a traditional time for travel and large family gatherings, and one country is already starting to make some changes.

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It’s been a week of progress in the distribution of vaccines for the coronavirus. But some locations are already looking ahead to the possibility of increased travel. And in some cases, even before vaccines are widely available. 

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International travel plans are still on hold for much of the world. That’s definitely the case in most parts of the Asia Pacific — but visitors from one location are getting a warmer welcome.

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Hawaii’s “safe travels” program is understandably focused on air travel. But the cruise industry also has plans to eventually return to the islands. For now, there’s more activity in that area elsewhere in the Pacific.

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One of the world’s top gatherings of business and government leaders is moving from Europe to Asia. It’s a temporary shift, and the reason is safety.

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Tomorrow is the day when government leaders on Oahu could mark the island's movement to "tier two" — loosening certain restrictions on businesses and activities. Several governments in the Asia Pacific are considering what it will take to move to the next stages of their own gradual reopening.

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The same day that Hawaii started its pre-travel testing program, two of Asia’s leading cities announced a travel agreement of their own. It’s a “travel bubble” involving Hong Kong and Singapore. That means residents will be able to skip a quarantine when traveling between the two cities — as long as they test negative for COVID-19.

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Leaders of one of the world’s most popular airports say the business is facing a “daunting” future. It’s an important transit hub in Asia, but as with airlines and airports around the world, it’s been hit hard by the coronavirus. 

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As Oahu starts to slowly re-open businesses on the island, many areas around the world are gradually easing some restrictions put in place to guard against the spread of COVID-19. That includes the Asia-Pacific — where it’s already been a week of change.

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14-day quarantines will remain in force for passengers arriving to Hawaii at least through the end of September. But in Southeast Asia, one country is starting to make some careful adjustments to its quarantine policy.

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Quarantine procedures are coming under closer review, and not only here in Hawaii. A key transit location in Southeast Asia is adjusting its policy beginning today.

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Mail-in ballots will start to go out to voters around the state next week. Elections in Hawaii are entirely by mail this year, but that's not the case in one country in Southeast Asia that just wrapped up national voting.

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This weekend, President Trump plans to address a political rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Organizers say face masks will be optional. Elsewhere, rules are very different when it comes to political gatherings — including one of the economic centers of Southeast Asia.

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Interisland travel without quarantine is now underway. And on Friday, bars will be allowed to re-open on Oahu. Friday also marks a new phase for looser restrictions for two important economies in Asia.

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Clinical trials are underway around the world in the search for a treatment for COVID-19. They are in various stages of research. And in Singapore, one is about to launch human clinical trials.

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While many businesses are slowly re-opening, questions linger about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on other activities. That includes voting. And in one democracy in Asia, despite uncertainty, planning is underway.

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States are taking different approaches on slowly re-opening businesses. That’s also true for countries, where two key economies in Southeast Asia are moving into a new phase.

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Some restrictions are gradually loosening on businesses around the state this week and next week –although we are still some time from ramping up travel to Hawaii. But there are some countries in the Asia Pacific that are taking a different kind of attitude to certain types of travel.

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In many places, today is Labor Day — a celebration of working people at a time when work has been disrupted around the world. In one Southeast Asian nation, the Prime Minister used his annual Labor Day address to talk about a cautious re-opening to a work world that will be very different.

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many businesses operate. It’s also led to an increased pace of development for certain ideas — including one announced this week in Singapore.

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The novel coronavirus pandemic has hit vulnerable populations around the world especially hard. That includes the elderly and the disabled. And in Singapore, it includes low-wage workers from other countries.

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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has ordered wider use of facemasks in public, starting next Monday. It’s part of the efforts to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, and it broadens his earlier request that people wear masks when they go out. This week in Singapore, authorities made that behavior mandatory.

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Throughout the global pandemic of COVID-19, many health experts have pointed to Singapore as a country that has taken many of the right steps to combat the spread of the virus.  Now, the country is ramping up a new series of restrictions.

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Singapore is often cited as a location that has been effective in its initial reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. This week the country is taking new steps because of a spike in new cases — largely because of residents returning from overseas.

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This week, Vice President Mike Pence mentioned Singapore as a place the United States could learn from when it comes to fighting the community spread of efforts of the coronavirus. The Southeast Asian nation has had more than 100 cases, and most of the patients have already recovered.

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Cities and countries around the Asia Pacific are struggling to deal with the public safety aspects of the coronavirus — as well as its economic impact. While the situation is still developing, some locations are doing better than others.

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When it comes to the coronavirus, China remains the country with the vast majority of cases. But health officials in one Southeast Asian nation have just raised their alert level.