Covid travel restrictions: countries still closed to tourists, from Philippines to Morocco

Whether because of zero Covid-19 policies or rising Omicron case numbers, these places have sealed off their borders to tourists

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The emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus has created upheaval on an international scale, with several destinations introducing temporary border closures and some reinstating restrictions on overseas visitors.

Other places that have had strict entry requirements since the onset of the pandemic remain committed to such measures as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on.

If you’re debating travelling in the near future, here are five destinations that you will need to strike from your travel list as tourism remains off limits for the majority of people.

China

Travel to China for tourism purposes, such as seeing the Forbidden City or The Great Wall of China, is prohibited because of Covid-19. AFP

The largest country with a zero Covid-19 policy has kept its borders tightly sealed to almost all foreigners since the onset of the pandemic.

There are specific instances where foreigners can enter China, but these are limited to people travelling for diplomatic services and those with valid Chinese residence permits for work, personal matters or humanitarian needs. Going to see The Great Wall of China, Beijing's Forbidden City or Xi'an's Terracotta Army is currently not allowed.

Foreigners who do fit into the limited categories of people allowed to travel to China must be prepared to follow strict instructions before their trip, including a 14-day pre-departure self-quarantine period before getting anywhere near an airport.

With such tight restrictions in place and lockdowns happening in China whenever new Covid-19 cases are reported, the country's reopening, at least for tourism purposes, seems a long way off.

New Zealand

Visits to Lake Tekapo on New Zealand's South Island, like the rest of the country, remain off limits to foreigners. Getty Images

Aided by its remote geographic isolation, New Zealand has enforced some of the tightest pandemic restrictions in the world in order to stem the spread of Covid-19. The country has remained closed to almost all travellers for nearly two years, and it doesn’t look like that’s set to change any time soon.

In December, the country pushed back the start of its gradual reopening owing to the Omicron variant, with non-quarantine travel, which was meant to open for New Zealanders in Australia this month, now not set to happen until February.

This means many New Zealanders who had been hoping for family reunions after a long time out of their homeland will need to sit tight a little longer. The delay also brings into question whether proposed plans to reopen New Zealand's borders to foreigners from April will go ahead or not.

Taiwan

Travel to Taiwan remains off limits to foreigners owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unsplash / Rovin Ferrer

If you had been thinking of visiting Taiwan in the near future, perhaps to see the island's natural beauty, visit the towering Taipei 101 or visit the National Palace Museum, home to one of the largest collections of Chinese imperial artefacts in the world, then you might need to press pause on your plans for a little longer.

The territory has had strict entry rules in place since the onset of the pandemic, and only limited groups of foreigners can currently enter, such as those with active residency, foreign spouses and children of Taiwanese citizens and some foreign workers. And even then there are strict protocols and managed isolation procedures in place for the limited few who can travel here.

Tourism is not currently allowed in Taiwan, with no tourism visas being issued and foreigners are also banned from transiting.

Philippines

If Palawan coastlines are on your travel bucket list you'll have to remain patient as the Philippines is still closed to tourists.

Despite proposals to open borders to vaccinated travellers from select countries in December last year, travel to the Philippines remains a no-go owing to the prevalence of the Omicron variant. On Thursday, the country recorded a record number of Covid-19 cases and the measures put in place to stop the spread have halted inbound tourism indefinitely.

Entry to the Philippines remains limited to citizens and select categories of foreigners, largely those with residency visas or spouses or children of Filipinos. No tourism visas are being issued so trips to see Boracay's beaches, the islands of Palawan or Luzon’s volcanoes remain a distant dream until further notice.

Morocco

Tourists ride along the sand dunes in Erg Chebbi desert near the small village of Merzouga in Morocco, Africa. The country is currently closed to travellers owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Reuters

From its Atlas Mountains to the Sahara dunes, the bustling markets of Marrakesh and Fez's pretty riad hotels, Morocco has captured the interest of travellers for centuries and offers an amazing diversity that comes with the country's renowned Arabian hospitality. But for now, trips to the kingdom are on pause thanks to a temporary travel ban put in place to try and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Morocco suspended all direct commercial passenger flights to the kingdom in November, with the ban in place until at least January 31. The move follows several cautionary procedures that the country has implemented since the onset of the global pandemic.

When flights do resume, some travellers will be able to visit the kingdom under certain conditions, with the Ministry of Health creating A, B and C lists of countries, each of which will have different regulations for tourists to follow for entry to Morocco. And if you have a future trip planned that transits Morocco, you'll be allowed entry so long as your transit time doesn't exceed 24 hours and that your onward booking is within the same day of arrival in Morocco, with night-time layovers temporarily suspended.

Updated: January 17, 2022, 1:51 PM
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