Mar 17, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is throwing entire Southeast Asia in turmoil as travel restrictions and business closures are getting more extreme and widespread and tourism has almost come to a standstill.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte from March 17 has put the entire Philippine island of Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine” until April 12 to stop the spread of coronavirus infections, a measure that effects no less than 57 million people. Public movement has been restricted to only buying food, medicine and other essential items necessary for survival.
At the same time, the Philippine stock exchange became the first worldwide to suspend trading amid a panic sell-off. The Manila bourse has been among Asia’s hardest hit by the global markets rout. Last week, it hit a circuit breaker meant to curb market volatility after falling ten per cent in a day for the first time since 2008. All stock, bond and currency trading has been halted until further notice.
Entertainment areas go silent in Thailand for two weeks
Meanwhile, in Thailand, the government ordered the closure of all universities, public and private schools, kick-boxing rings, cockfighting arenas, theaters, cinemas, bars and entertainment venues from March 18 to 31. It was not immediately clear if the closures are mandatory for the entire country or just for Greater Bangkok. It turned out that it will be applied where clusters of infections have been found, while the shutdown of venues elsewhere in the country would be at the discretion of the provincial governors.
Malls and restaurants are so far not affected by the order but need to ensure they are following proper hygiene and precautionary standards and limiting large gatherings by encouraging social distancing. However, some businesses have already taken the initiative to close on their own as customer numbers have dwindled.
In Malaysia, the new Prime Minister Muhyiddini on March 16 announced a drastic two-week lockdown of the entire country to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He said that all religious institutions, schools, businesses and government offices will be shut from until March 31. All mass gatherings will be banned and only essential services including supermarkets, banks, gas stations and pharmacies will be allowed to stay open. Malaysians will not be allowed to travel overseas, and all foreign visitors will be banned. All Malaysians returning from overseas will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Vietnam closes clubs and bars
Vietnam has temporarily stopped issuing visas for all foreign nationals for 15 to 30 days. Schools have been shut, and authorities have ordered the closure of cinemas, clubs and bars, massage parlours, karaoke lounges and online game centers in urban areas until the end of March.
Cambodia also decided to close all karaoke clubs and cinemas across the country in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Cambodians are not allowed to travel to Europe, the US and Iran if not absolutely necessary, and foreigners from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US are banned from entry to the country. Public and private schools sent their students on “early vacation.”
Meanwhile, Laos closed six border checkpoints to Vietnam and four to Thailand in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, with the remaining international checkpoints monitoring all arrivals closely. In Myanmar, which claims that is was still virus-free, the government is quarantining or turning away travelers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Germany, France and Spain since March 15.
In Indonesia, which is confronted with rapidly rising cases of coronavirus patients, President Joko Widodo said on March 16 that the authorities were not yet considering imposing a lockdown. However, school closures have started and civil servants and some companies are asking staff to work from home.
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