Asia further tightens travel restrictions as Omicron continues global spread

The rapid spread of Omicron infections across the world has forced Asian governments this week to reinstate even tougher border measures, with Thailand pausing her quarantine-free allowance for travellers and Singapore freezing new ticket sales for Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights and buses.

Thailand’s restrictions will be enforced until January 4, 2022, but the Kingdom will continue to accept Thailand Pass applications for visits with quarantine. The Phuket Sandbox scheme will also continue to stand.

Thailand, which has been taking the lead in Asia’s post-pandemic reopening, has removed quarantine-free travel allowance for now to curb the spread of Omicron infections

Singapore’s VTL freeze, in effect from December 23 to January 20, will not impact travellers who have already obtained a flight or bus ticket. The latest decision will also see the Ministry of Health temporarily reducing the VTL quotas and ticket sales for travel after January 20, 2022.

Capacity and ticket sales for VTL land travel into Singapore or Malaysia from January 21 will be cut by half, with allowance for only 24 one-way bus rides per day. Designated VTL flights into Singapore will be halved from January 21.

Omicron fears have also led Japan to extend until January next year her ban on new entries by all foreigners and quarantine requirement for all returning Japanese nationals and foreign residents. These rules were supposed to have ended at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, stricter social restrictions have emerged in some parts of the region. South Korea has reimposed a curfew, requiring dining establishments and bars to close by 21.00 and limiting gatherings to no more than four people, while Malaysia has axed all large New Year’s Eve celebrations, allowing only small and private gatherings – provided pre-event Covid-19 tests are conducted.

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