Asia Minute: Differing COVID Restrictions Emerging for Foreigners, Local Residents

Dec 29, 2020

As health officials track new strains of the coronavirus, many countries are adding precautions aimed at arriving travelers. Across the Asia Pacific, several countries are simply shutting down entry for all foreigners — while others are opening a bit more for residents.

Japan became one of the first countries to tighten its borders after the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19 — barring all foreign nationals who aren’t residents of the country through the end of January.

Indonesia is doing the same — at least through the first two weeks of January.

Others are tightening travel restrictions, but some countries in the region are continuing efforts at opening up. If not to foreigners, at least to their domestic populations.

Singapore has moved on with the next phase of its internal re-opening — as of this week dining out is allowed for groups up to 8, instead of the previous limit of five. Capacity limits have been expanded at public gathering spaces from shopping malls to religious services.

But Singapore’s approach to re-opening also remains at a cautious pace, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said this new phase could linger for as long as a year or more.

Vaccinations are scheduled to begin later this week.

Healthcare workers will begin to receive them tomorrow, and the plans are for that pool to expand in February to include those aged 70 and older.

Singapore also uses what it calls “safe distancing ambassadors” — who roam areas such as restaurants and other gathering places to assure that when people do get together, they still maintain some distance.