Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday (Oct 25) called on South-east Asian nations to “reactivate safe travel” to help the region’s economy recover, as the Covid-19 situation begins to improve in some countries.
He said the Asean travel corridor arrangement framework, initiated by Indonesia last year to facilitate the resumption of essential travel in the region, “needs to be implemented immediately”.
This could be achieved through the recognition of vaccination certificates issued by Asean nations and travel lanes for inoculated travellers with negative Covid-19 tests on arrival, among other things, the Indonesian leader said via video link at the Asean Business and Investment Summit.
“With the Covid-19 situation getting under control, these restrictions can be reduced,” Mr Widodo told Asean leaders as well as business and thought leaders.
“If all Asean countries immediately facilitate the mobility of people safely, the wheels of the economy can move again.”
He stressed that healthcare must remain the top priority, and the vaccination target of 70 per cent of the population in Asean countries “must be achieved as soon as possible”.
He urged Asean countries to work together to “accelerate and equalise vaccination” in the short term, and develop health crisis protocols in the medium term to ensure that the region becomes more resilient to future health crises.
Mr Widodo said Indonesia will gradually reopen parts of the country where full Covid-19 vaccination of two doses exceed 70 per cent.
Currently, more than 32 per cent of Indonesia’s target population is fully vaccinated.
Bali reopened to foreign visitors earlier this month (Oct 14) for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year.
Strict health protocols include a mandatory eight-day quarantine at the travellers’ own expense. The president said the popular resort island was reopened after 84.9 per cent of the population there had been fully vaccinated.
Indonesia is currently the worst hit by Covid-19 in South-east Asia, with daily infections exceeding 50,000 at its peak in July, largely due to mass travel during Hari Raya Aidilfitri and the spread of the Delta variant.
Cases have since fallen following social curbs put in place in mid-July. As of Monday (Oct 25), total infections stood at 4.24 million, and deaths 143,235.
At the virtual summit on Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is confident that two-way trade between the United Kingdom and Asean – totalling some 40 billion pounds (S$74.1 billion) annually before the pandemic – will rise in coming years.
“As we all seek to build back better from coronavirus, I want to see that figure rise further still. And I’m sure it will because global Britain is once again open to the world,” he said in a pre-recorded video.
His speech followed the UK being made the first new dialogue partner of Asean in 25 years.
Britain exited the European Union on Jan 1 this year, with Mr Johnson seeking to create a more agile “Global Britain”.
Mr Johnson said on Monday: “We’re embracing new partners and reacquainting ourselves with old friends.
“We’re negotiating ambitious and wide-ranging free-trade deals with a degree of speed and efficacy that few thought possible. And we’re pioneering high-tech frontiers, with a new Asean-UK Digital Innovation Partnership underpinned by our Digital Trade Network.”