Covid-19 and travel to Southeast Asia
Last Updated: 30-April-2020 at 18:00 GMT
What is the current situation?
Situations like Covid-19 (coronavirus) understandably make people think twice about travelling. We get that. So, we want to provide information that might help you with your decision to travel, or not to travel.
With the barrage of daily rolling news, it is perhaps a little hard to remember where all this began. The first person known to have fallen ill due to the new virus was in Wuhan in China on 1 December 2019. On 31st December 2019 that the WHO was informed of the outbreak and the Chinese government started to consider control measures.
For those who are interested there is a very detailed page on Wikipedia which collects together a huge body of information about the outbreak.
Latest WHO situation report
The WHO published a daily situation report and has a whole section of their website dedicated to Covid-19.
You can access the situation reports here: WHO situation reports
It is worth noting that the WHO numbers tend to lag a little behind general news reports. However, we are using this as our main reference point because these are verified figures.
Confirmed cases in our main InsideAsia destination countries
Vietnam - 270 (approx. population 95million)
Cambodia - 122 (approx. population 16million)
Laos - 19 (approx. population 7million)
Myanmar - 150 (approx. population 53million)
At InsideAsia Tours we take a lead from the UK, US and Australian government positions. Each of these governments expresses its advice in slightly different terms.
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
As of the 23rd March 2020, the FCO upgraded its advice further, advising British
people travelling abroad to return to the UK. On the 17th March, the FCO has
issued an advisory against all worldwide travel, initially for the next 30 days. You can find the government advice here and the statement here.
US State Department
As of 19th March 2020, the US State Department issued a new Global Travel Advisory stating that US citizens, 'Do not travel' and to 'avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19'. The full advisory can be found here.
The current CDC advice has been raised to a Level 3 - Avoid nonessential travel -
due to the ongoing spread of Coronavirus. The advice can be found
Australian government advice
On March 18th the Australian government issued a 'Level 4' Covid-19 global travel warning advising all Australians; " Do not travel overseas at this time". This is the highest advice level. It also added that if citizens which to return, it recommends they do so "as soon as possible by commercial means". You can read the details on the Smartraveller website here.
What if government advice changes?
We monitor the government advice daily. If there is a change we let our customers know straight away and post on this page. In certain circumstances we will issue amended terms and conditions for our clients.
How might my travel be affected?
It is not recommended to travel to Southeast Asia at the present time.
Latest news (25th Apr - 1st May
Khmer fears gone
With just 122 confirmed cases and 119 recoveries from Covid-19 and no new cases in Cambodia, the country is returning to normality the Khmer Times reports.
Praise for Vietnam
The Vietnam authorities have been praised for their fast and hard response to the coronavirus crisis by world press. Despite recording its first cases in January, out of the 270 people that caught the virus, 255 have recovered, there have been no deaths and there are no news cases reported over last 10 days. The Guardian reports on Vietnam's quick response and their success.
Vietnam gradually reopening
Tourist sites have begun opening again as anti-coronavirus measures are eased reports the Vietnam Times. It is apt that on the Reunification holidays (Apr 30 - May 3) that the government eases the restrictions suggesting that they are winning the battle against the virus.
Laos lockdown end
Confirmed numbers of Covid19 patients have been low throughout the crisis. Laotian Times reports that not only are all of Luang Prabang's patients out of hospital, the nation is likely to announce the end of the lockdown next week.
200 people from across Vietnam along with Truong Sa soldiers perform a ?proud of Vietnam' song according to the Vietnam Times. The song was sponsored by the Ministry of Health and praises unity, solidarity and cooperation during the fight against the pandemic.
Archive News (17th - 24th April)
Clearing up in Vietnam
Vietnam News reported that no new cases of the coronavirus had been recorded in eight days. Vietnam has declared that it is beginning to relax some social distancing measures. Of the 268 confirmed cases, 224 cases were successfully treated. The hard stance of the Vietnam authorities is seemingly paying off.
Good news in Laos
Whilst the Laotian Times reported on Tuesday that the country has been seven days without any new cases of coronavirus.
Lonely Planet published video of Cambodia icon, Angkor Wat seemingly empty due to restrictions around the coronavirus. The attraction usually attracts over 7000 people a day, but this video shows the site in a very different light.
Archive News (9th - 17th April)
In Cambodia, the senate is set to pass a Bill to give the go-ahead for the national state of emergency to be enacted in the fight against the coronavirus. The move is seen as controversial and raises concerns over power given to the ruling party. However, the Bill also empowers the two legislative bodies to prevent abuse according to the Phnom Penh Post.
Dry new year in Yangon
The Straits Times reported that Thingyan celebrations in Yangon were very different this year with a ?lockdown' in place. Usually the new year celebrations see the streets across the country, full of people soaking one another with water but efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus meant that this year was very quiet.
Nothing to see here
Vietnam has been praised for its tough stance on coronavirus and according to the Vietnam News, on Friday night, Hanoi reported that it had no new cases of the virus.
Archive News (3rd - 9th April)
Hard stance pays off
Vietnam authorities have not taken any prisoners when it comes to the shut down of Covid-19. The hard stance seems to be paying off and as of 9th April, authorities declared that, for the first time in a month, there were no new cases as reported in the Vietnam Times.
No Buddha veneration
According to the Laotian Times, the country's highest Buddhist order has stated that new year rituals are to be cancelled for the public in the fight against the spread of coronavirus. While the public has been prohibited from gathering at temples during Pi Mai, the gathering of monks and novices currently living within the temple grounds to engage in this sacred act on everyone's behalf, is allowed.
Khmer new year postponed
In order to stop Cambodian's heading back home, crossing province borders for new year celebrations, the government announced that it would postpone the holiday (April 13-16). Prime Minister, Hun Sen promised that people would receive a 5 day holiday at a more suitable time according to the Phnom Penh Post.
In Ho Chi Minh, a company has developed a rice ATM to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, reports the Vietnam Times. The ATM allows 24hr contactless rice distribution for those in need and again demonstrates Vietnam doing what it can to prevent the illness.
Stamping out Covid-19
Vietnam has released two new stamps that aim to raise awareness of the work being done, but also support frontline staff during the Covid-19 crisis. The stamps are available until December 31st.
Archive News (28th March - 3rd April)
Hardcore measures in Vietnam
Vietnam has been praised for its hardline measures against the spread of Covid-19. As of April 1st, Vietnam has closed up borders to neighboring Laos and Cambodia. Authorities have already asked airlines to not carry international passengers in order to stop the spread of Corona - many cases to date, have been carried over from Europe. In other new measures, authorities are clamping down on gatherings of more than two people and have asked people not to leave homes unless absolutely essential according to the Vietnam Times.
Corona causing Cambodian constitutional concern
As Covid-19 slowly spreads in Cambodia, the government is on the verge of declaring a 'state of emergency' and is ready to take action against Covid-19. According to the Khmer Times, the draft gives power to the Executive body which raises concerns over human rights and is somewhat controversial. Some say that it is the recipe for a dictatorship, however, it is suggested that this move is purely in the name of stopping the Coronavirus.
New Year, no fun in Myanmar
Across Southeast Asia, new year is approaching. In Myanmar, the government have urged people to stay home during the usual Thingyan celebrations which take place in mid-April according to the Myanmar Times. Cases of Covd-19 are still low, but if measures are not taken, it is likely to spread fast.
According to Saigon lifestyle website, Saigoneer, with impending lockdown on the agenda, many locals took to the streets to partake in a favourite pastime, flying kites. Hundreds of kites filled up the skies.
Buddhism fighting Covid-19 in Laos
The Laos News published a piece on five Buddhist teachings that can help ease anxieties around the Coronavirus pandemic. We can all learn something.
Archive News (21st-28th March)
This week marked the unfortunate milestone for both Laos and Myanmar who confirmed their first recorded cases of the virus, as reported in the Southeast Asia Globe and Laos Times.
Escaping the virus
According to Reuters, Vietnam has taken a very tough stance on the virus and with thousands of nationals escaping Covid-19 in other countries and returning to Vietnam, the government are sending them to 'quarantine camps' . As of this week, there were over 40,000 people held in the name of the fight against the virus.
The Vietnam Times reported that Vietnam continues to clamp-down on the spread of the virus. It has banned groups of 20 people from meeting socially across various cities in the country in addition to already prohibiting groups of 10 people meeting outside schools and offices.
Reunification train halted
The Vietnam Times say that the 'reunification' train that has linked the north and south of Vietnam has been suspended until the end of April, in efforts to halt the spread of the virus.
The Vietnam Times report that the islands of Con Dao, off the southeast coast of Vietnam have been temporarily shut to tourism by regional authorities. Locals have also been told to avoid non-essential travel off the islands.
In other news, a Hanoi vendor has created a corona burger that is said to look like the microscopic images of the virus. According to the Vietnam Express, the owner suggested people usually, "eat to overcome fear".
News Archive (15th - 21st March)
Laos visa ban
As of the 19th March, Laos authorities have suspended the visa on arrival and E-visa services for all foreigners, initially for a 30 day period. Authorities also state that any nationals returning to Laos, must self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.
No entry to Vietnam
Vietnam effectively bans all foreigners from the country by suspending all new entry visas into the country according to Vietnam Express. This measure is in addition to banning entry to other "Covid-19 hotspots" including the UK.
Cambodian schools to close
On the 16th March, the Cambodian government announced that it was to close all schools until further notice in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Cambodia's confirmed cases are slowly rising.
On the 16th March, the Vietnamese government ordered that all people must wear face masks in busy places to help stop the spread of the virus according to the Tuoi Tre News.
Light-hearted campaign, serious message
Vietnam has been very strict over its coronavirus policy, but it has also been responsible for some of the most entertaining output of this crisis. First the song and now the dance both with millions of views
News Archive (March 7th - 15th)
Vietnam Airlines to halt flights
Vietnam Airlines have announced that they are stopping flight services between Vietnam, London, Paris and Frankfurt from the 25th March on a temporary basis.
Temporary Vietnam Visa changes
On March 13th, Vietnam authorities announced that as of the 15th March, in efforts to stem the spread of covid-19, they are not allowing entry into Vietnam for UK travellers, with or without visas. This is a temporary but hardline measure from the Vietnamese government.
Cambodia banning some nations
March 15th saw Cambodia cases of Covid-19 rise to 12 with several people being tested positive. As a result, the authorities have decided to ban people from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US entering the Kingdom. The ban will be in place from 17th March for 30 days.
Myanmar to deny entry to some countries
Myanmar authorities have announced that it will quarantine or turn away travellers from Germany, France, Spain and Iran in an attempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Halong Bay temporary closure
Authorities have temporarily closed Ha Long Bay and neighbouring Bai Tu Long along with other sites in the province from 12th March until the 26th March. A number of other popular tourist sites have also been closed temporarily.
Vietnam flight case
After a Vietnamese passenger on a flight from Europe to Hanoi on March 2nd tested positive for Covid-19, all other passengers have been tracked down, put into quarantine and tested for the virus. Although extremely unlucky to be on the same flight as someone with the virus, it shows the seriousness to which the Vietnamese (and other Asian destinations) are taking this in order to halt the spread of the virus.
News Archive (March 1st-7th)
The news in Asia has again been dominated by South Korea this week, with the case count there increasing from 3,736 on March 1st to 6,767 on March 7th. In the light of this, Japan has withdrawn its visa-waiver programme and has announced that all passengers arriving on flights from South Korea (in additional to China, Hong Kong and Macau) will be quarantined as of March 9th.
The UK FCO has extended its travel advice for South Korea to now advise against all travel to the cities of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan. The US and Australia say categorically "don't go" to Daegu and Cheongdo but have kept their advice as 'reconsider travel' for the rest of the country advisory covering the whole country.
In other countries in the region, there have been just a handful of new cases. Vietnam reported its first new cases in 2 weeks (now up to 19 cases) after a business class passenger on a London to Hanoi flight was found to be infected. The case count in Thailand meanwhile has increased to 48, Malaysia to 83 and Singapore to 130 - all relatively low. There have still been no reported cases in Myanmar or Laos.
China is still subject to 'do not travel' advice from the UK, US and Australian governments, but the rate of new cases has slowed to its lowest since January. Just over 100 new cases were added in the latest WHO report compared to over 3,800 new cases per day back in early February.
News Archive (24th Feb - 1st March)
The outbreak in South Korea entered a new phase this week with a rapid increase in confirmed cases as the government implemented strict control measures to try and restrict the spread outside of the main affected areas of Daegu and Cheongdo.
The role of the Shincheonji Church continues to be a matter of some controversy in Korea with the BBC reporting that the leader of the secretive religious sect will be investigated over some of the country's coronavirus deaths (source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-51695649).
WHO situation report #41 (1st March) has the number of cases in South Korea standing at 3,736 with large numbers of new cases being confirmed daily.
In better news, on 26th February the Vietnamese government announced that their initial measures to contain the spread of the virus had been successful and all 16 confirmed cases have now recovered. It is worth noting though that they are not complacent and have strengthened anti-epidemic measures (source: Singapore Times)
Changes to government advice
This week both the US authorities changed their advisory to recommend against all but essential travel to South Korea (Level 3). The UK and Australian governments have the same advice which can be summarised as don't go to Daegu or Cheongdo and take extra care when travelling to the rest of the country.
As tweeted by President Trump on 1st March, the US has also introduced increased screening of individuals returning from South Korea, Italy and Iran in addition to the measures which were already in place for those returning from China.
Government advice for all our other destinations remains unchanged.
News Archive (17th-23rd February)
The main news this week has been a number of new cases in South Korea with the latest WHO report (no. 34) showing a total of 602 cases. A large number of these are thought to be centred around the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious sect based in Daegu city in the south of Korea, with the source traced as a large funeral held for the founder's brother.
The Shincheonji Church says it has now shut down its Daegu branch and the Korean authorities have declared Daegu and Cheongdo as 'special care zones' and are encouraging citizens to stay at home.
As a direct result of this increase in the spread of the virus, the UK, US and Australian governments have issued travel advisories (see section above).
The situation in our other destinations continues to be that cases are very low indeed with just 16 in Vietnam and 1 in Cambodia and none in Laos or Myanmar.
Our tour leader Aaron who is currently leading our 'Indochina Encompassed' group tour in Laos, has updated us on the situation on the ground and reports that there are not as many masks being worn, and that all major tourist sites are still open but remain a lot quieter with fewer regional visitors.
In our interconnected world there are lots of negative effects of Covid-19 which might not be immediately apparent. Hotels in the UK, for example, are feeling the pinch as the number of Chinese tourists have fallen dramatically. One positive side-effect is that the air in major cities in Vietnam is noticeably clearer than normal as there are less vehicles on the road and schools have not returned after the new year break in Vietnam.
We are using the WHO situation reports as our official source for case numbers. An important statistic that is not reported on these is recovery rates. If you are interested in these then take a look at the Covid-19 Dashboard maintained by the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Systems Science and Engineering.
News Archive (10th-16th February)
The main news this week for our destinations was concerning Vietnam. Although there have only been 16 confirmed cases in Vietnam, the government has been implementing preventative measures to restrict the spread of the virus.
Measures taken include:
- Cancellation of some local festivals.
- The quarantining of the village of Son Loi, 48 km north of Hanoi. This measure has been taken due to a small outbreak of 6 cases in one family with a direct link to Wuhan. It is worth adding that this village is not near any tourist sites or routes that we use on our trips.
Facemasks are not generally required, however you may be asked to wear one when visiting 'Independence Palace' in Ho Chi Minh City and the 'Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum' in Hanoi. Be sure to bring a mask with you from your home country, as supplies in these destinations are low.
Coronavirus gets an official name
This was the week when Novel Coronavirus got a new name: Covid-19. This is what you can expect to see on all official documents in due course.
The latest view from Vietnam in this report from tour leader Aaron, live from our 'Highlights of Vietnam' group tour
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