As 2021 dawns, the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop in Southeast Asia. Many countries are preparing to receive their first vaccine shipments, and a few have already started distributing them.
New outbreak in Thailand
But in the meantime, the virus is rebounding in many parts of the region. In Thailand, a new oubreak has nearly doubled the country’s case total in the past month.
The first evidence of community transmission occurred when a Thai worker at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon province tested positive. Soon migrant workers at the same seafood market, many of whom had left neighbouring Myanmar after a serious outbreak started there in September, were testing positive at a high rate. Anti-Myanmar sentiment has intensified online in recent weeks as many Thais blame migrants for the surge in cases.
The outbreak in Thailand has also precipitated an exodus of non-Myanmar migrant workers to their countries of origin. Cambodia has seen a small increase in cases due to several of these returning migrant workers testing positive. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has since tightened border restrictions and prevented more Cambodian migrants from traveling to Thailand.
So far, few new cases have been reported in Cambodia. But if efforts to keep the coronavirus out of the country fail, Cambodia’s weak healthcare system could be quickly overrun.
Thailand’s northern neighbor Laos has tightened movement control measures and increased inspections of Thai fish imports. Laos reportedly began vaccinating frontline officials, including medical workers, in late November. It remains unclear which vaccine the Lao government is using, but it plans to continue vaccinating medical workers through January.
Growing number of cases in Indonesia
The growth of cases in Indonesia has only accelerated over the holidays. Indonesia has locked down its borders, banning all incoming travelers as a new, potentially more contagious variant of Covid-19 spreads from the United Kingdom.
The densely populated island of Java, which also contains the country’s capital, accounts for the majority of cases nationwide. Hospitalizations have far surpassed capacity on the island, and so has space in cemeteries, some of which have resorted to doubling up on graves. Meanwhile, Indonesia has begun distributing the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine and will begin officially vaccinating the public on January 13. The Indonesian government is also finalizing deals to secure Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
More cases in Malaysia
Cases in Malaysia have also accelerated of late. The government has not issued any major updates to its movement control measures after loosening regulations throughout December. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has taken action to acquire vaccines. Two weeks ago, his government signed a deal for 6.4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Muhyiddin also says he is in talks with Chinese and Russian manufacturers to secure more doses.
Cases have come down in the Philippines
New daily cases have come down in the Philippines over the past few weeks, as the government extended various states of quarantine in December and restricted inbound travel, including from the United Kingdom, the United States, and 20 other countries. Singapore has also halted travel from the UK while strengthening quarantine measures for those traveling from South Korea, where cases are surging.
For more details on recent developments, visit our Tracker online.
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Has Covid-19 prompted the Belt and Road Initiative to go green?
– Chinese overseas investment dropped off in 2020
– Government remains committed to the wide-ranging infrastructure programme
– Sustainability, health and digital to be the new cornerstones of the initiative
Following a year of coronavirus-related disruptions, China appears to be placing a greater focus on sustainable, digital and health-related projects in its flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
As OBG outlined in April last year, the onset of Covid-19 prompted questions about the future direction of the BRI.
Launched in 2013, the BRI is an ambitious international initiative that aims to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes through large-scale infrastructure development.
By the start of 2020 some 2951 BRI-linked projects – valued at a total of $3.9trn – were planned or under way across the world.
However, as borders closed and lockdowns were imposed, progress stalled on a number of major BRI infrastructure developments.
In June China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that 30-40% of BRI projects had been affected by the virus, while a further 20% had been “seriously affected”. Restrictions on the flow of Chinese workers and construction supplies were cited as factors behind project suspensions or slowdowns in Pakistan, Cambodia and Indonesia, among other countries.
Marijuana could generate up to Bt8 billion for Thailand’s pharmaceutical industry
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