NEWS Round-Up April 4-April 7

News. ASEAN, coronavirus, Malaysia, Thailand, China. Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines

China has been relaxing progressively lockdown measures with business restarting again not only in Wuhan and the Hubei province but also all across the country since the start of this week. An encouraging sign is the reopening of airports in Hubei including Wuhan International Airport. Chinese air transport is indeed starting its long recovery. In March, air capacity represented 42% of pre-crisis capacity, up more than 20 points in one month. The government is again allowing a limited international flights. This week, China is linked by 108 international flights operated by 20 foreign airlines from 12 countries as well as 88 international routes from 18 national airlines.
In order to contain potential cases of importation of the virus by passengers coming from abroad, China allows each foreign airline to maintain only one route to China with only one flight per week. The load factor cannot exceed 75%, in order to maintain safe distances between passengers within the aircraft. However, direct international flights to Beijing are still banned and diverted to other airports as passengers need to undergo health checks. Aviation authorities named Tianjin Airport (TSN), Qingdao Airport (TAO) and Hohhot Airport (HET) to handle most of the international flights with Beijing as their final destination. In total, China allows only 5,000 international passengers daily instead of the pre-crisis figure of 25,000.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended until April 30 a partial lockdown of the country, affecting an estimated 57 million people in the northern island of Luzon, his cabinet secretary announced on Tuesday. The “enhanced community quarantine”, which Duterte declared in mid-March to help contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, was to end on Sunday, April 12. Manila has been under lockdown since March with the entire Luzon Island being lock downed since March 17. Other islands of the archipelago are also applying regional or local lockdowns which actually has brought the country to a full halt. With Malaysia, the Philippines has now the highest number of cases with an estimated 3,660 coronavirus infections and 163 deaths in the country on Monday, April 6.

According to news from Reuters, private company Golden Skies Ventures (GSV) has made a $2.5 billion offer to fully take over the holding company of ailing state carrier Malaysia Airlines, with financing from a European bank, its executives told to the news agency on Monday. However current MSA owner Khazanah Nasional Bhd is not convinced by the offer as it has not been able to prove its source of funding. Khazanah managing director Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said it would be “cautious” on whether the offer was made with financial backing, given the global airline crisis and credit risk aversion. “Plus their (Golden Skies’) original proposal relied 100 per cent on debt funding from third parties. They do not have any equity of their own,” Shahril told Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times (NST) on Tuesday.

Singapore has entered total containment today in the face of a sudden resurgence of the epidemic in the country. As of Tuesday 7 April, the City-State had 1,375 cases, including six deaths. Praised at the start for its rigourous handling of the crisis, Singaporeans have taken the confinement in a rather relaxed manner as they continued social life outside their home. Schools are now all closed, while restaurants and food outlets serve only take-away meals.  Food stores, banks and pharmacies remain however open. The strict lockdown will be in force until 4 May. Changi airport remains open but local authorities have announced the closure of Terminal 2 from May 1st for an 18-month period. The closure was brought forwards as Changi airport authorities had already planned to renovate totally the terminal before the crisis. T2 is due to reopen at the end of 2021. Terminal 4, mainly dedicated to low-cost airlines, could also be temporarily closed due to a lack of traffic.
In Bangkok, the authorities have suspended all international flights landing in Thailand – a de facto ban on departing flights as well. The measure is in force until 18 April and automatically cancels the resumption of flights announced by Emirates or the continuation of Lufthansa Group flights from Frankfurt to the Thai capital. For tourists still stranded in the country due to the lack of flights, the government is showing flexibility by automatically extending expiring visas by 30 days after registering with the immigration services. However, the government says that tourists remaining in the country will have to leave within seven days of the resumption of air traffic and the reopening of borders.

Vietravel is an affiliate of one of the country’s largest tour operator Vietravel. It was given principle approval from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to start operations last October, but plans have been put on hold. The carrier is now to postpone flights to the third quarter of this year. It will initially have a fleet of three aircraft which will provide charter and regular flights out of Phu Bai International Airport in Hue. It targets one million passengers with a fleet of eight aircraft by 2025. Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration has recently issued two COVID-19 scenarios. The first one is that if the disease is controlled before April, translating into a decline of 15% in total passengers to 67 million. The second scenario is looking at the disease being under control by the middle of the year, translating into a drop of 22.5% in passengers, equivalent to a total of 61/61.5 million.