/ / Insight



An article by the AHA Centre’s own Grace Endina – a preparedness and response officer in the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) – was recently published on the Jakarta Post’s website. Named Travel corridor arrangements: Between economic and health interests, this article provides an insight into travel during the time of pandemic, and highlights areas for learning that could be utilised during this or future pandemics. The following are excerpts from Grace’s article, with the full version linked at the end of the text.

I am one of the few people who were fortunate to be able to travel amid the pandemic, flying from Jakarta to Yangon, Myanmar. Indeed, it was really challenging even before I hopped on the flight in my mask and face shield, and with my handy bottle of hand sanitizer. Thanks to the pandemic, I had to transit in Singapore and then Malaysia, due to the different procedures in each country. These included the validity period of COVID-19 test results, flight availability, sudden visa requirements and transit restrictions for passengers arriving from certain cities.

At Yangon International Airport, airport authorities and officers from the Ministry of Health strictly recorded passengers’ data and then transported them via a shuttle service to a designated quarantine hotel. Foreigners were taken to one hotel, where we were required to self-quarantine for exactly two weeks. Another interesting observation was the rather long time that passed between arriving flights at the three airports, which I guess was intended to enable airport authorities and health officials to manage and control the arrival of international travelers.

The most interesting aspect was the quarantine process and period. While some studies have suggested that the coronavirus may not be detected in the early days of exposure, each country applied different quarantine periods and different swab testing frequencies and intervals for travelers. Singapore and Myanmar, for instance, imposed a very strict quarantine period of 14 days and required two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. Once you exit the immigration counters in these countries, you are transported on a bus to the designated quarantine hotel, accompanied by airport authorities. The airport authorities have already booked your hotel for the quarantine period, so you have no options to stay at different hotel. The quarantine hotels are not open to regular guests. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, the quarantine period is currently five days with two PCR tests. As soon as you exit the airport, salespeople from designated quarantine hotels and designated taxi companies offer their services to arriving travelers who do not have bookings yet.

My experience traveling during COVID-19 showed that each country has adopted different arrival procedures and quarantine protocols. I guess this depends mainly on the availability of their resources and interests in view of restoring essential business services. While it is clear that the generally prescribed quarantine period is 14 days, there is no prescribed method for how best to manage airports amid the pandemic. The health sector advises travelers to quarantine for 14 days without taking an immediate swab test, but others may think differently in terms of issues of practicality rather than what should be done from the perspective of public health. With these different standards for travel corridor arrangements, is it possible to protect business interests and public health at the same time?

Written by : Grace Endina