A travel corridor arrangement was high on the agenda as Southeast Asia leaders convened virtually for the bi-annual summit on November 12.
The plan could see fast lanes and new health protocols being implemented to facilitate business travel and speed up economic recovery across the region.
ASEAN, which stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“In implementing our twofold task of fighting the pandemic and promoting recovery… we are creating a safe travel framework for businesses and investors amidst the pandemic,” said Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam, in his opening remarks. “In the short term, we may consider the reopening of the ASEAN lane for our citizens at the airports.”
A regional travel bubble remains a challenge given the varying stages of the pandemic across member countries. For example, Singapore and Vietnam have largely reopened, with Covid-19 cases now in the lower double digits. In Indonesia, however, new cases have surged since the summer, reaching 4,000 per day.
Nonetheless, the country is pushing for an ASEAN travel bubble to be in place within the first three months of 2021, according to Bloomberg.
“The people can’t wait for much longer, they want to see our region revive,” said Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia.
In the meantime, governments are resorting to one-off bilateral agreements. Singapore, for example, has already established fast lanes for travellers from ten countries, including ASEAN members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, according to its border agency.