CARI Captures Issue 520: Viet Nam leads average daily rise in COVID-19-related deaths in ASEAN despite lockdowns

Viet Nam leads average daily rise in COVID-19-related deaths in ASEAN despite lockdowns

(13 September 2021) According to government data compiled by Bloomberg, Viet Nam was leading the average daily rise in COVID-19-related deaths in ASEAN despite lockdown measures implemented by the authorities. This comes as many Southeast Asia countries seek to reopen their economies amidst some of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, with state finances in many countries have been pushed to the brink due to recurrent rounds of stimulus measures. Factory shutdowns caused by restrictions have caused global supply chain shortages, and some countries like the Philippines and Viet Nam are looking to apply more localized restrictions in hot spots instead of national or regional lockdowns. Countries like Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are also seeking to emulate Singapore’s strategy of treating the virus as endemic.

Government and state investment firm Temasek Holdings to set up US$1.1 billion fund to help boost Singapore stock market

(17 September 2021) The Singaporean government is looking to set up a US$1.1 billion fund backed by state investment fund Temasek Holdings Pte to help boost the Singaporean stock market. The fund will invest in high-growth companies and initial public offerings. Separately, the Economic Development Board’s investment arm will start a Growth IPO Fund worth as much as S$500 million initially to invest in companies that are technological innovators and two or more funding rounds away from listing publicly, with a view towards an eventual IPO in Singapore. Singapore’s bourse has struggled in recent years with tepid listings and low equity trading liquidity, and these plans by the government aims to make Singapore a more attractive location for capital raising for local and regional companies.

Indonesia to allow foreign visitors holding more types of visas to enter the country

(16 September 2021) Indonesia will allow foreigners holding more types of visas, including visitor permits for tourism and education, to enter the country as long as they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Among the non-Indonesians who will be able to enter the country include those with visitor visas, those holding the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation business travel cards, permits to stay for diplomatic and work purposes, as well as permanent or limited rights to stay. Indonesia has been shut to most foreign travellers since April 2020, only allowing certain visitors to enter for business essential purposes. The country has considered reopening its borders multiple times due to the border closures’ effects on the country’s tourism industry. Indonesia will require proof of full vaccination in visa applications.

Thailand to woo wealthy foreigners to stay long term in the country over the next five years

(15 September 2021) The Thai cabinet has given its green light in principle to a series of measures to attract wealthy foreigners to stay long term in the country over the next five years. The plan aimed to draw four groups – wealthy global citizens, pensioners from overseas, those wanting to work in Thailand and highly skilled professionals. Among the measures proposed to attract wealthy foreigners include exemptions and benefits during their stay (such as not having to report to the authorities every 90 days), as well as amendments to laws and regulations relating to land holding, work management and permission for foreign nationals to work for employers in and outside the country, exemption from regulations on employment of foreign and Thai employees, and tax exemptions.

United States to ship 2.58 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines through Covax programme

(17 September 2021) The United States will ship 2.58 million more doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines on 17 September 2021 through the COVAX global distribution programme. This brings the total number of vaccines sent to the Philippines to just over nine million. Last week, the US’ national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with the foreign and defence ministers of the Philippines during their visit to Washington to mark the 70th anniversary of the two countries’ Mutual Defense Treaty, during which Sullivan announced that the US would provide an additional US$11.3 million in COVID-19-related assistance to the Philippines, bringing the total US COVID-19 assistance to the Philippines since the start of the pandemic to US$37 million, in addition to the millions of vaccine doses donated.

China temporarily halts imports of dragon fruit from Viet Nam due to COVID-19 risks
(17 September 2021) China halted the import of Vietnamese dragon fruits for a week (starting on 15 September 2021) after traces of COVID-19 were found on the packaging and cardboard boxes of dragon fruit imported from Quang Ninh province. China remains the top destination for Viet Nam’s dragon fruit, representing over 80% of total shipments and amounting to $1 billion a year. The Vietnamese fruit trade with China has already been struggling due to land transport congestion, tighter border controls and increased domestic plantings in China. Chinese officials stated that the dragon fruit halt will be extended for another week if COVID-19 is detected again, using the PCR testing method, on the packaging of dragon fruits or any products shipped from Viet Nam.

Secondary schools in Cambodia begin to reopen as COVID-19 vaccinations approach targets
(15 September 2021) Secondary schools in Cambodia began to allow in-person classes again as the country’s vaccination rates approach national targets. Many of the almost 140,000 pupils in Phnom Penh sat for in-person lessons at both public and private schools that had been certified as safe by the Ministry for Education. Teachers and school staff were required to undergo COVID-19 tests prior to returning to school, while students and staff were also required to show proof of vaccination before entering campus, while masks were mandatory to wear. Since the global pandemic began, schools in Cambodia have been shut down for almost 200 days, facing tougher restrictions than restaurants, bars and many businesses. The government has set targets of inoculating 10 million adults and 2 million children aged 12 to 18. As of last weekend, more than 8.5 million adults had already received double doses.

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Jobless rate falls to 2.8% in August 2021, at lowest level since March 2021

(15 September 2021) South Korea’s unemployment rate fell to 2.8% in August 2021, a significant drop from the 3.3% measured in July 2021 and its lowest level since March 2021. However, this was largely due to the fact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic actively discouraged people to look for work and for companies to hire. Overall, the economy added some 518,000 positions from the slump a year earlier, marking a sixth straight month of gains, with half of the jobs created since February coming from government-funded programs. Tighter restrictions on public activity have made it difficult for people to go out in search for jobs, while private businesses are also cutting back on regular hiring as the pandemic drags on.

Japan’s benchmark stock index hit its highest level in 31 years, spurred by hopes of new prime minister
(14 September 2021) Japan’s benchmark stock index, the Nikkei Stock Average, hit its highest level in 31 years on 14 September 2021, spurred by gains in U.S. shares and hopes that Japan's next prime minister will spend big to boost the economy. The Nikkei Stock Average closed at its highest point since August 1990, with electronics, automotive and chemicals stocks leading the gains. Japanese equities showed strong momentum in their recovery from the COVID-19-induced global market downturn in 2020, however, the spread of the contagious delta variant in the summer of 2021 and its impact on the economy had dampened investor sentiment. With the vaccine rollout accelerating, expectations for an economic reopening are on the rise, with the government set to ease domestic travel restrictions and to allow indoor dining once again.

New Zealand to delay the reopening of its trans-Tasman travel bubble by at least eight weeks
(17 September 2021) New Zealand will delay its reopening of its trans-Tasman travel bubble by at least eight weeks, due in part to COVID-19 case numbers in Australia rising and numbers in New Zealand continuing to drop. The ongoing pause in the quarantine-free travel between both countries had been set to expire next week. Daily case numbers in New Zealand had been trending downwards recently, while states in Australia such as New South Wales and Victoria continue to record new cases. As of date, just over 35% of New Zealand’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated, while more than three million people having had their first dose.

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