Coronavirus Outbreak: A Round-Up Of Travel Restrictions Around The World


Cheng Sim •  Mar 17, 2020

With the rising number of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases around the world, travelling is a seemingly far-fetched dream this year. More and more countries are taking precautionary measures, issuing lockdowns and travel restrictions to prioritise the health and wellbeing of their citizens and travellers everywhere.

Credit: Giphy

With many restrictions and travel bans circling our news channel, it can be hard to keep up. In this article, we round up some countries and summarised as much information as we can about the latest updates we read so far. We'll do our best to update this article from time to time, so you'll be in the know about the current travel restrictions around the world.

Note: The number of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases for the following countries was last updated on 19 March 2020. For the latest updates, check out the World Health Organization's Novel Coronavirus Situation dashboard. The following information was also sourced from official news publications as well as the Ministry of Health and Tourism Boards from respective countries. 

1. China

Cases: 81,174 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Lockdown (Wuhan and other cities in the Hubei province) and travel restrictions

Since 23 January 2020, the Government of China has issued its first lockdown in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province where the COVID-19 outbreak first appeared. All public transportation, railways and highways have been shut down. Other public places like airports, cinemas, and cafes are also closed. As the outbreak continues to spread, Mainland China also extended the lockdown measures to other nearby cities in the Hubei province including Huanggang, Ezhou, Xianning and Huangshi.

For bustling cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, some of the main attractions are closed until further notice including Shanghai Disneyland, The Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square. Do note that there are many airlines that cancelled all flights to Mainland China such as Scoot, Singapore Airlines, Air France, British Airways, and KLM, that may affect your future travel plans to this country.

As of 17 March 2020, things are also looking up in China as they've shut down all 16 temporary Coronavirus hospitals in Wuhan.

2. Italy

Cases: 35,713 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Lockdown

The first COVID-19 case in Italy was confirmed on 31 January 2020 and today, it had spiked to 35,713 cases. On 13 March 2020, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a nationwide lockdown in hopes to reduce the number of confirmed cases after the initial lockdown on the red zones of North Italy.

All public gatherings, religious ceremonies and sporting events are now suspended and the prime minister has ordered everyone to stay at home and seek permission for essential travels. Only travellers with a valid work or family reason are allowed to travel.

Currently, there are temperature screenings at the train stations and cruise ships are now forbidden to dock at any ports. Schools, universities, and cinemas will remain closed. Restaurants will only open until 6 PM whereas shopping malls and markets are allowed to operate on weekdays only.

3. South Korea

Cases: 8,413 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Travel restrictions

On 20 January 2020, South Korea announced the country's first COVID-19 case and today, it has increased to 8,413 cases. There are a number of airlines that have reduced or suspended flights to South Korea and we recommend that you check with the airline for further updates.

The country is also restricting travellers with passports issued by Hubei province or have travel history to the aforementioned province within 14 days of arrival in South Korea. Do note that visa-free entry to Jeju Island is also temporarily suspended to all foreign nationals. Currently, the government advised everyone to stay at or work from home especially now that schools are closed and public events are at risk of being postponed. In the meantime, South Korea is working hard and doing 10,000 Coronavirus tests a day to reduce the spike of confirmed cases.

4. France

Cases: 7,652 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Lockdown

On 12 March 2020, President of France Emmanuel Macron announced that schools and universities will be closed until further notice and advised everyone to stay at or work from home. However, they're allowed to leave their homes to shop for necessities but encouraged to limit close contact as much as possible. Public transportation will operate as usual including trains, metros and buses.

Major tourist attractions in Paris will be closed until further notice including The Louvre, The Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, and Musée d'Orsay. More public theatres, libraries and concert halls are also expected to close because of COVID-19 outbreak.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, President Emmanuel Macron has issued a lockdown on 18 March 2020. The government has deployed more than 100,000 police officers to enforce the restrictions and those who breached the lockdown orders will be fined. During this lockdown, citizens are required to stay at home and only leave to shop for food and important necessities, go to work, visit the doctor or get personal exercise.

5. Singapore

Cases: 313 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Travel restrictions

On 15 March 2020, Singapore's Ministry of Health added new precautionary measures to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. With immediate effect, Singaporeans are advised to defer all travel abroad until further notice, which overrides the previous measure to defer only non-essential travels.

All travellers - including Singapore residents, long term pass holders, and short term visitors - entering Singapore with recent travel history to ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland, or the UK within the last 14 days will be issued with a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN).

All short-term visitors who are nationals of any ASEAN country will have to submit information about their health to the Singapore Overseas Missions in the country. The submission will have to be approved by Singapore's Ministry of Health before travelling to Singapore, and the approval will be verified by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority officers at the Singapore checkpoints. Short-term visitors who arrived in Singapore without necessary approval will be denied entry into Singapore.

Supermarkets, restaurants and tourist attractions in Singapore remain open but do know that they have increased efforts to safeguards the well-being of visitors and ensure that they can travel without any worries. Universal Studios Singapore, Marina Bay Sands, and Jewel Changi Airport were among the attractions that have stepped up on precautionary measures during the COVID-19 outbreak.

6. Japan

Cases: 873 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Travel restrictions

On 15 March 2020, the Government of Japan has banned travellers with Chinese passports issued by Hubei or Zhejiang province from entering the country. This restriction includes travellers who have been to certain areas in China, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the Republic of San Marino within 14 days of arrival in Japan.

Most popular attractions in Japan will also be closed until further notice. It includes Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Tokyo National Museum, Teamlab Borderless, Tokyo Skytree, Universal Studios Japan and more attractions in this list.

7. Malaysia

Cases: 673 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Movement control order

On 16 March 2020, Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin imposed a movement control order from 18-31 March 2020 to control the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country. Mass gatherings are prohibited nationwide including all religious, sports, social and cultural activities. All places of worship and business premises are expected to be closed except for supermarkets, public markets, grocery stores, and stores selling basic necessities. All mosques in Selangor will suspend Friday prayers until 17 April 2020.

Cafes, restaurants and coffee shops will only be opened for takeaways and deliveries. As a precautionary measure, online food delivery service such as foodpanda will begin contactless delivery where they'll place your orders on designated spots in front of their customer's home or office.

The Prime Minister also added that Malaysians will be barred from leaving the country and restrictions will be placed on all tourists and international visitors entering Malaysia. It also means that Singaporean and Indonesian travellers won't be able to enter Malaysia until the movement control order has been lifted. Malaysians who have returned from overseas will need to go for a health check-up and undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador announced that interstate travel is now banned until further notice except for certain exceptions such as the death of a family member, visiting a critically-ill relative, seeking medical treatment and other situations to be considered by the police (you're required to inform the police to obtain a written permit). Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal also announced that non-Sabahans are not allowed to Sabah unless they have special permission from the state government or can provide a medical certificate.

8. Australia

Cases: 510 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Travel restrictions

On 15 March 2020, the Australian Government has announced that all foreign nationals are not allowed to enter Australia if they have been to Mainland China, Iran, the Republic of Korea, and Italy within 14 days from the day they left any of these countries.

For travellers with a travel history to the aforementioned countries, the airline may directly or indirectly not allow you to board your flight. There's also a high possibility that your visa may be cancelled if you do arrive in Australia. Australian citizens and permanent residents will still be able to enter, but they are required to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the day they left China, Iran, the Republic of Korea or Italy. This also applies to tourists entering Australia who must self-isolate in a home or hotel room for 14 days after entering Australia.

9. New Zealand

Cases: 20 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Travel restrictions and self-isolation

On 14 March 2020, the New Zealand Government has placed temporary entry restrictions on travellers arriving in or transiting through the country from mainland China or Iran. Only New Zealand citizens (including permanent residents and their immediate family) and Australian citizens (including permanent residents who have an established residence in New Zealand) are exempted from the temporary restrictions. However, they have to self-isolate for 14 days after their return from Mainland China or Iran.

The self-isolation measure also includes all travellers who have been in any country (except these Category 2 countries like Fiji and Papua New Guinea). They need to self-isolate for 14 days after their return. Self-isolation includes avoiding social gatherings and events, child care or pre-school centres, primary and secondary schools, public gatherings and more.

10. Hong Kong

Cases: 192 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Quarantine

On 17 March 2020, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam announced that everyone (including permanent residents and international travellers) who enters Hong Kong will be quarantined for 14 days upon returning from any overseas travel starting from 19 March 2020.

Hong Kong previously recorded a growing number of COVID-19 cases but managed to keep it under control thanks to the implementation of stay at home quarantine for low-risk cases, frequent temperature screenings in shopping malls and office buildings as well as regular disinfection of door handles and other surfaces. Currently, all schools are closed and scheduled to reopen on 20 April 2020. Do note that major tourist attractions such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park are temporarily closed until further notice.

11. Saudi Arabia

Cases: 238 (last updated on 19 March 2020)

Status: Travel restrictions

The Government of Saudi Arabia has announced that all international flights (both incoming and outgoing), will be suspended for two weeks or until further notice starting 15 March 2020. All umrah pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina have been suspended and travellers will not be permitted entry to Saudi Arabi with umrah visas.

International travellers with tourist visas who have travelled to or transited through China, Hong Kong, Macao, Iran, Italy, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, Singapore, India, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Somalia, Vietnam, or Egypt within 4 weeks before their arrival to Saudi Arabia are not allowed to enter the country.

Credit: Giphy

While there are many travel restrictions, lockdowns and movement control orders happening in our favourite travel destinations, it's important that we stay safe and continue to feel positive about our future travel outcome. We also recommend that you practice good hygiene if you need to go and about. As we continue to bring more updates about COVID-19, let's continue to remain optimistic and pray that things will get better in the months to come.