Asia Pacific Update: March 23
In today’s edition, key developments relate to escalating domestic countermeasures against COVID-19. With many countries having closed their international borders, work continues on domestic policies to restrict the spread of the virus. These include severely limiting domestic travel, restricting permissible public gatherings to two people and closing all non-essential businesses in some markets.
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Latest Disease Updates
Live coronavirus case update
More than 300,000 cases have been reported worldwide. As of 08:30 SGT on Monday, March 23, 2020 (00:30 GMT / 20:30 ET, Sunday), 335,972 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, with a total of 14,462 deaths, according to John Hopkins University. While Greater China has the highest number of cases with 81,397 people infected, Italy has the highest number of deaths globally at 5,476 and 59,138 cases across the country. The US has 33,276 cases, the UK has 5,741 cases and Singapore has 455.
- Italy tightens restrictions on movement: Italy has banned any movement inside the country and closed all non-essential businesses. With 651 deaths reported on Sunday – bringing the total to 5,476 – Italy has the highest death toll globally as hospitals struggle with a lack of intensive-care beds.
- Germany tightens bans on meetings: Germany is banning public gatherings of more than two people as the government tries to slow the rate of infection. The tougher rules come as Chancellor Angela Merkel quarantines herself at home after contact with a doctor who later tested positive for COVID-19.
- Australia imposes tougher controls: Pubs, casinos, restaurants, and other venues across Australia will close from Monday after the number of infections surged past 1,000. The government ramped up controls after many Australians flouted social-distance guidelines, with thousands flocking to beaches and socializing in bars over the weekend.
- Olympics organizers consider options to delay: The International Olympic Committee is considering a postponement of Tokyo 2020 and has begun drafting alternatives to holding the summer games, due to start on July 24. While cancellation is “not on the agenda”, the IOC said the Games could be “scaled-down”.
- Canada will not participate in 2020 Olympics: Canada has said it would not participate in the summer Olympics due to concerns about the coronavirus. Opposition to holding the Games in July has risen sharply in the last 48 hours.
- China: China embarks on clinical trial for COVID-19 vaccine. (CNA) Meanwhile, both China and Italy experts hold video conference about virus treatment among elderly. (Xinhua)
- New Zealand: New Zealand hospitals could treble ICU capacity to meet COVID-19 surge. (NZ Herald)
- Indonesia: President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo calls for focus on healthcare, safety net as economists push for flexible budget (The Jakarta Post)
- Japan: PM Shinzo Abe says postponing Tokyo 2020 may become an option if holding the event in “complete form” became impossible amid the pandemic. (Japan Times)
- Korea: South Korea will take legal action against churches violating coronavirus guidelines. (The Korea Herald) Meanwhile North Korea says US President Donald Trump wrote to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, offering coronavirus cooperation. (CNA)
- Thailand: After the highest one-day jump in new cases, scores of people flocked to bus stations to leave Bangkok and the country after news of a “soft lockdown”. (Bangkok Post)
- India: Despite a 14-hour curfew on Sunday, many with travel history to virus-affected countries were found flouting quarantine guidelines. (Times of India)
- Australia: Sydney Airport will abandon non-essential projects and conserve cash as states and territories close borders and more flights are cancelled. (AFR) Meanwhile, a major fuel producer expects jet-fuel demand to fall between 80-90% due to widespread flight cancellations.
- Hong Kong: Hong Kong is under pressure to follow Singapore and Taiwan in closing its borders to all non-residents after the second-highest single-day spike in new cases. (South China Morning Post)
- Major tech giant helps coronavirus fight: One of the world’s major tech firms is committing $225 million in cash and services to assist efforts aimed at combating the coronavirus and helping those affected. A blog post by the CEO said the firm, alongside other companies, will announce a multi-million dollar financial assistance program for people at risk on Monday.
- Major computing brand to help researchers: Another tech giant is partnering with the White House to make a vast amount of supercomputing power available to help researchers stop the spread of coronavirus – developing predictive models to analyse how the disease is progressing. The Trump administration said the supercomputer power would also be used to model new potential therapies, or a possible vaccine.
- Singapore airline slashes capacity: A Singapore carrier is cutting 96% of its capacity until the end of April. The airline said in a statement that the decision was made after tighter border controls were introduced around the world over the last week in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
- Airline reverses decision to cut all flights: Shortly after it said it would halt operations, a Dubai airline confirmed it will continue to operate passenger flights as long as borders are open. It will not cut jobs, but will temporarily reduce basic salary for the majority of its employees for three months. The airline said the move followed requests from government and customers to “support the repatriation of travelers”.
DAILY FOCUS: Impact of social distancing
As part of our daily monitoring of the latest developments and impact on businesses, each day we will take a deeper dive into one sector. Today, we look at the impact of social distancing on businesses and sectors throughout Asia Pacific – tracking national and international coverage over the past fortnight.
- Australia’s banking sector is trying to ensure its staff can work from home, given the social distancing recommendations from the government.
- Malaysia has exempted workers in the plantation and commodity sectors from the Movement Restriction Order, citing the importance of these industries. But workers are still expected to follow social distancing and personal hygiene measures.
- South Korea expects social distancing to accelerate business transformation from video conferencing to contactless commerce, boosting its semiconductor manufacturers.
- In Australia, a retail giant has implemented social distancing guidelines for shoppers. Retail workers in New Zealand said “retail therapy is over” and urged people not to loiter in shops and malls, while some shops are using a virtual queuing app to keep retail customers apart.
- Singapore rolled out its safe distancing measures at retail, food and beverage sectors, with possible punitive measures against those businesses flouting the guidelines. Fast food chains in Australia have introduced a range of measures including suspending dining-in and focusing on pick-up and drive thru services. Another fast food giant has introduced contactless options for those dining in. Malaysia is reducing the number of restaurants that can open 24 hours in order to reduce crowds.
- The impact of social distancing on tourism and the hospitality industry is devastating. The tourism industry in the region continues to be hit hard. In Australia, Queensland’s travel and tourism businesses are in “freefall” as bookings plummet and visitors are cancelling trips. Hotel occupancy is expected to fall to 10%.
- The hotel and hospitality industry in New Zealand could see job losses reaching 100,000. Malaysia has cancelled its “Visit Malaysia” campaign. The Thai government is expected to announce plans to close bars and entertainment venues, and the postponement of Songkran New Year activities.
- Indonesia is reversing its previous attempt to support the tourism sector: the government now calls for the suspension of meetings, conventions and exhibitions. Those tourism businesses are urged to operate under limited hours.
Media analysis of stories covering the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam between March 9 – 22.
About COVID-19 News Roundup:
- The content of this news bulletin is a summary of publicly available news articles on events and developments related to COVID-19.
- The views and opinions reflected by these headlines do not necessarily represent those of Weber Shandwick.