With countries progressing towards high COVID-19 vaccination rates, strategies for border reopening are required. This study focuses on Thailand and Singapore, two countries that share significant tourism visitation, to illustrate a framework for optimizing COVID-19 testing and quarantine policies for bilateral travel with a focus on economic recovery. The timeframe is the month of October 2021, when Thailand and Singapore were preparing to reopen borders for bilateral travel. This study was conducted to provide evidence for the border reopening policy decisions. Incremental net benefit (INB) compared to the pre-opening period was quantified through a willingness-to-travel model, a micro-simulation COVID-19 transmission model and an economic model accounting for medical and non-medical costs/benefits. Multiple testing and quarantine policies were examined, and Pareto optimal (PO) policies and the most influential components were identified. The highest possible INB for Thailand is US $125.94 million, under a PO policy with no quarantine but with antigen rapid tests (ARTs) pre-departure and upon arrival to enter both countries. The highest possible INB for Singapore is US $29.78 million, under another PO policy with no quarantine on both sides, no testing to enter Thailand, and ARTs pre-departure and upon arrival to enter Singapore. Tourism receipts and costs/profits of testing and quarantine have greater economic impacts than that from COVID-19 transmission. Provided healthcare systems have sufficient capacity, great economic benefits can be gained for both countries by relaxing border control measures.
Open access: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/20/5/4011