Countries in Asia-Pacific have been talking about possible travel bubbles for months (Trans-Tasman bubble anyone) that would allow close to regular travel between nations that have Covi-19 under control.
Nothing has much come out of these talks so far as the infections have been on the rise in the area. Hong Kong has confirmed that it has held discussions with 8 to 10 countries, and they are most advanced with Thailand and Japan.
The idea behind the now canned Trans-Tasman bubble was that citizens/residents of Australia and New Zealand could freely travel between these two countries once the Covid-19 infections were close to non-existent/eradicated.
Once there were outbreaks in Australia (especially in Victoria) and sudden cases in New Zealand, it is difficult to see this happening anytime soon.
These “travel bubbles” that Hong Kong and Japan have been negotiating would require at least one, if not more, Covid-19 tests that are mutually recognized by the two countries.
Here’s an excerpt from the Standard:
In a webinar yesterday, Yau said the government has been in talks with eight to 10 countries and regions in the hopes of rebuilding the travel sector.
“If both sides agree to resume the flow of people between them, tourists should undergo a virus test that is recognized by both regions or countries before boarding the plane,” Yau said.
“Border health officials will then decide whether to do another virus test for tourists upon arrival.”
He added that determining which residents will have priority in traveling once the bubbles are set up is not the most urgent task for the government.
“As of now, discussions with Thailand and Japan are more in-depth,” Yau said. “But I have to emphasize that implementing travel bubbles is not a task that can be done in a short period of time as a set of mutually recognized virus test standards has to be in place beforehand.”
Hong Kong already allows travel from Mainland China, Macao, and Taiwan. Not sure if there are quarantine and/or Covid-19 test requirements in place?
These travel bubbles that would require one or more tests at either or both ends may facilitate some business travel, but difficult to see how they could jump-start the tourism sector as a whole. Who has time for all these tests, and they are not free either?
They may also unravel very fast if there are sudden imported Covid-19 cases and local outbreaks. It isn’t easy to keep the same level of distancing and continuous mask usage while traveling in airplanes, trains, and buses.
Everything that helps people traveling between countries either for business or leisure is welcomed by airlines and hotels.
The entire sector won’t rebound under we have this Covid-19 under control worldwide, and the various travel bans have been lifted. Perhaps starting in the second half of 2021?