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Travel ban worry in Myanmar

INTERNATIONAL passenger flights may only resume operations by October, causing great concern to those in the travel industry in Myanmar.

Myanmar vice-president Henry Van Thio said it was unlikely for the country to allow this until the end of the third quarter of this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thio said this in the National Tourism Development Central Committee meeting last week, according to The Irrawaddy.

Aviation industry insiders have expressed concern on the impact of another possible extension of the ban on international passenger flights since March 31.

It was due to be lifted this month but the statement by Thio hints at a possible extension.

Myanmar Airways International general manager U Tin Maung Than said the country could not afford to continue shutting down its doors as other nations began allowing operations at their airports.

“If the ban is extended until October, airlines, airport operators and all the tour operators would collapse,” he said, adding that Myanmar should allow airports to reopen operations to international passengers but take heed of precautions.

Some countries in the region that have reopened to international tourism have adopted guidelines for foreign arrivals, requiring them to present health certificates or purchase health insurance.

Some countries have also set up laboratories at airports to run tests for Covid-19.

Union of Myanmar Travel Association chairman U Naung Naung Han expressed a similar view.

“It appears that we can no longer wait for Covid-19 to be eliminated. By the time Covid-19 is eliminated, tour operators will no longer have a business.

“Asean countries like Thailand and Cambodia now only restrict foreign travellers when it is necessary,” he said.

Though Myanmar had largely reopened to domestic tourism, local tour companies were still struggling and many would likely have to shut down if international passenger flights were not allowed until October, he said.

The Myanmar government stated that once airports resumed operations, it would announce the reopening of its tourism sector to Asean and Asian countries.

The government also plans to take part in “travel bubbles” with Thailand and Vietnam, including direct flights to and from Myanmar.

“Travel bubbles” are exclusive partnerships between countries that have demonstrated considerable success in containing and combating the Covid-19 pandemic within their respective borders.

The programme will allow people to travel within the zone without having to undergo quarantine on arrival.

The vice-president added that, if the initial travel agreements were successful, the Myanmar government would establish travel bubbles with Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong and Macao, as he said they had achieved considerable success in containing the disease.

The Transport and Communications Ministry has not responded about the resumption of international commercial passenger flights to Myanmar.

The Myanmar government has also operated repatriation flights, bringing citizens back from abroad.

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