It should be noted that South-East Asian countries all handled Covid far better than their western counterparts, locking down early and with very few cases. Even in India, relative to the size of its population, the virus had a low impact.
We have been watching closely the countries in which we work as to the rollout of their vaccine programmes and the lifting of travel restrictions. Here is a brief update:
Over 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been ordered in addition to the Chinese one and the vaccine rollout began last month. There are plans to waive quarantine arrangements for vaccinated travellers and to prioritise the vaccination of hospitality workers. They plan to reopen to tourism in June this year.
After a slow start, the first AstraZeneca vaccines have now arrived along with the Chinese ones. There is no clear date as to when travel restrictions will be lifted but we anticipate they will follow Thailand’s lead.
The Russian vaccine is planned to roll out in April and some of the Chinese vaccine has already been supplied to key workers. Again, there is no clear date for reopening. Laos tends to follow Vietnam in these things.
The first AstraZeneca doses have now arrived and the vaccine programme has started with further doses on order which includes the Russian one. Like Thailand Vietnam is looking at reopening to vaccinated tourists by the summer.
With the recent military coup, the situation has become confused. It seems that initial orders for the Indian vaccine have been cancelled in favour of the Russian and Chinese ones. So far there has been no vaccine roll out that we know of other than to frontline medical workers back in January.
Over 20 million people have already been vaccinated with the India vaccine and the rollout is moving very fast. The tourism ministry is planning to open to foreign tourists quite soon. India may well be the first of our Asia destinations to reopen and get back to normal.
The UK has commissioned a number of companies to develop this as quickly as possible and already several cruise operators have declared that they will only carry passengers who have been vaccinated. Once we get clarity on how the vaccine passports will work we may also insist on this. The EU is also working on a vaccine passport and an announcement on how this will work will be made on 17 March.
We anticipate restarting most cruises by August this year. Reservations remain strong and as the news improves they continue to strengthen. Airlines are already promoting new schedules and like everyone, we can only hope that there will be no further setbacks.
For Myanmar, there are clear concerns about safety and we are carefully watching this situation as it unfolds. I know that the many people who have booked Myanmar will likewise be following the situation and thank them for their patience and understanding. We do not want to keep people hanging on with uncertainty, so will make a decision on whether to operate by 30th June. If we do not, then James and his customer service team will be in touch to discuss your preferences.