The Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause issues throughout the world and Southeast Asia has not escaped its effects.
More than 1.29 million cases and almost 30,000 deaths have so far been recorded in the region. Both are around 2% of the global total.
Hard Hit Nations
The worst hit country in Southeast Asia is Indonesia where there have now been almost 600,000 cases and 18,336 deaths. The country remains locked down with restrictions on internal travel as the country continues to record high numbers of daily cases, 6,033 in the last 24 hours.
The Philippines has also been hit hard by Covid, 445,540 cases so far including a further 1,383 in the last day. Deaths in the country now stand at 8,701. The country remains in lockdown until at least the end of the year. The impact of the pandemic has been especially difficult in areas which have recently been hit by a series of severe typhoons and tropical storms.
Initially Myanmar (Burma) escaped the worst of the pandemic, but a second wave hit the country with much higher numbers of cases and fatalities. The country now has more than 104,000 confirmed cases and just over 2,200 deaths.
Malaysia had started to relax restrictions internally but many areas have now seen them increase again as more cases and deaths are experienced. The country recorded a further 2,234 cases in the last 24 hours, giving a total of 78,499 for the pandemic. A further 3 deaths now mean that there have been 396 fatalities. The impact on the tourist industry in Malaysia is estimated at US$24.5 billion as tourist revenues fall by 81%.
Singapore initially experienced a relatively high number of cases, many of which were concentrated in the dormitories used to house migrant workers. Since then numbers have slowed considerably, just 6 new cases in the last 24 hours, 58,297 in total, and 29 deaths.
Low Covid Cases But Economic Impact
Even countries with low numbers of cases have been hard economically. Vietnam, with just 1,385 cases and 35 deaths, has experienced a US$23 billion impact following the loss of tourism for much of the year. A flight attendant may face prosecution after flouting quarantine laws and causing a new domestic outbreak.
Thailand has recorded just over 4,100 cases but the tourist industry has been ravaged with just 6.7 million tourists expected in 2020, down from 40 million in 2019. The prospects for 2021 look bleak as well with the Thai Finance Minister recently predicting just 8 million tourists and a full recovery not expected until 2024 despite new visa changes to attract more tourists. A new outbreak in the north of Thailand has been linked to Thai workers returning illegally from Myanmar.
Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Timor have only recorded just 580 cases and 3 deaths in total.
Tourism has yet to recover in the region and prospects for a quick return are slim despite the prospect of vaccinations against Covid-19. Globally 70% of destinations have lifted or eased travel restrictions, that is not the case in most of Southeast Asia.
Cambodia, in theory, is open to tourists, but there are many restrictions and most visa applications are likely to be refused.
Thailand is open to a few tourists through the STV and TV schemes but have indicated that general tourism is unlikely to restart until April 2021 at the earliest. A number of domestic tourism campaigns have been launched including a December promotion by Airbnb.
Singapore has created a number of travel corridors and Green Lane agreements but the high hopes that they had for the travel bubble with Hong Kong has been postponed following an increase in cases in Hong Kong and it is now unlikely to begin until early 2021.
Concerns have been raised in Malaysia for the viability of many tourist businesses and jobs in the country if the lockdown continues. The country is looking at establishing new travel bubbles to attract limited numbers of tourists.
The Philippines are likely to be closed to international arrivals until at least early 2021.
More details on Covid-19 in the region, the effect on tourism and travel restrictions is available here.
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