THE WORLD’S longest and toughest border restrictions have finally been relaxed. Asia-Pacific countries are taking the most decisive steps towards reopening international travel in recent days.

Governments in several countries have announced a series of plans to welcome the arrival of foreign tourists who have been drastically vaccinated in tourism hub cities ranging from Singapore, Sydney, Bali to Bangkok. These countries will completely abolish the quarantine requirements already in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For these places, the easing represents a significant shift towards opening as the traditional year-end holiday season approaches.

Sydney, New South Wales is open for business to people who have been vaccinated up to a second dose from around the world,” said state Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet as quoted by Bloomberg, Friday (10/15).

Australia’s most populous state announced it would waive a 14-day quarantine for travelers from November, although the federal government later clarified that it would be limited to residents.

The long quarantine for travelers is a policy to suppress COVID-19 cases in the Asia-Pacific region. The quarantine lasts 21 days for travelers from abroad. When the delta variant emerged, the strategy helped places like China, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

For countries like Thailand and Malaysia, such quarantines help prevent COVID-19 cases for a while. But the strict rules left the region behind when the rest of the world began reopening a few months ago.

New South Wales’ move follows announcements by Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore earlier in the month to remove restrictions on who can enter or relax entry rules.

Singapore in the past week announced quarantine-free travel for vaccinated travelers from countries in Europe, Asia and the US, and has signaled more places will be added. Travel, transportation and trade are vital to this city, a global financial center and gateway to the rest of Asia.

Earlier this week, the Thai government said it would remove quarantines for vaccinated travelers from five low-risk countries including the US, China and the UK from November. The number of countries will continue to be added gradually as the country seeks to revive a tourism-dependent economy.

Indonesia has also reopened allowing inoculated visitors from more countries to enter and impose shorter quarantine periods. The country reopened the tourist attractions of Bali, as well as the islands of Batam and Bintan to foreign visitors this week. [sources/photo special]