COVID-19 RATE OF INFECTIONS STABILIZED IN ASEAN
The COVID-19 pandemics starts to show signs of stabilisation with a slowdown in infections, according to official data communicated by each government in ASEAN.
Countries such as Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam did not record any new cases of COVID-19 for more than 20 days now while Myanmar and Thailand new daily infection cases are now down to a single-unit increase following a path similar to Mainland China. In Malaysia, the pandemics seems to be now under control as the number of daily infections has fallen to double-digit figures. The pandemic goes on however in Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore although the three countries experience as well a slowdown in the rate of increase. In Singapore, large clusters subsist. However, the death toll remains low at 21, despite the fact that the City-State shows the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia.
In total, ASEAN recorded since the start of the outbreak 203,081 with total deaths reaching only 1,972. Even by including the 24 infections recorded in Timor-Leste (0 death), ASEAN is one of the least affected region in the world which would help to the recovery of its tourism, once borders reopen.
INDONESIA/THAILAND: RESCUING NATIONAL AIRLINES
Both Garuda Indonesia and Thai Airways see their respective government approving rescue plans to let their national carrier to continue flying.
- Indonesia is finalizing a US$1 billion financial bailout plan for its flag carrier to help it stave off a debt default after the coronavirus crisis forced the airline to ground most of its planes. The rescue plan includes a proposal to restructure PT Garuda Indonesia’s US$500 million repayment due next month and arrange new bridge loans of as much as US$500 million to meet working capital requirements for three to six months, Deputy State-Owned Enterprises Minister Kartika Wirjoatmodjo said.The government help in tiding over the financial crunch should sooth investor concerns about Garuda’s ability to survive the pandemic that’s forced airlines worldwide to seek state bailouts and emergency funding. Garuda, in which Indonesia’s government owns almost 61 per cent, has already cut employee salaries and renegotiated aircraft lease agreements to tackle a slump in travel sparked by the pandemic. “Garuda remains a good company with bright prospects,” said Wirjoatmodjo. “Its business will remain robust after the outbreak ends.”
- In Thailand, the government -which owns 51% of Thai Airways International shares through the Ministry of Finance- agreed to bail out the carrier with a short term loan equivalent to US$1.69 billion. The carrier has debts amounting to US$7.5 billion. The US$1.69 billion (THB54 billion) liquidity boost will however just be enough to keep the carrier afloat for only five months. Thai AIrways estimates that it needs a capital increase of US$2.5 billion if it wants to survive the crisis. However, the airline has to submit a rehabilitation plan before the end of the month if it wants to see the government proceeds with the loan.“If [the plan] is not finished in May, then we cannot proceed,” Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob told to Thai media, adding that the proposal must address all of the 23 risk areas highlighted by the airline, and present a clear strategy for handling the new coronavirus, growing revenue, and managing expenses.(Sources: Bloomberg for Garuda Indonesia, Reuters for Thai Airways International)
MALAYSIA: RESTRICTIONS ON TRAVEL TO BE EASED
The Malaysian government is lifting step by step its lockdown measures. While intra-state travel is possible, inter-state travel within Malaysia is only allowed for working or urgent family purposes. Only Sarawak continues to restrict travel, allowing residents to only travel within their district.
New rules were also adopted for airlines. Any air public transport licence or permit to ferry passengers may “carry the total maximum capacity of passengers” onboard air public transport for each journey of a “scheduled flight” from Peninsular Malaysia to Sabah or Sarawak.
For a “non-scheduled flight”, the “total maximum capacity of passengers” for each such flight from Peninsular Malaysia to Sabah or Sarawak is also allowed, provided that all passengers on the flight are students in Peninsular Malaysia returning to Sabah or Sarawak, the new rules say.
The new rules also state that such air public transport providers must ensure that they only carry a maximum 66.6 per cent of the “total maximum of load factor” for each “scheduled flight” from Sabah or Sarawak to Peninsular Malaysia. The new rules are valid until June 9.
PHILIPPINES: MANILA AIRPORT TO REOPEN FOR INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS FROM NEXT WEEK
Manila’s international airport will allow international charter and commercial flights to resume arriving on designated days, beginning Monday.
Inbound international chartered flights will be permitted to land at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Mondays and Thursdays, while commercial ones will be allowed on the other days of the week, the civil aviation authority said in a statement. That schedule will last for a month, until June 10.
The Philippines suspended all commercial passenger flights to and from the country on May 3 because of the coronavirus outbreak, while allowing outbound flights to resume the next day.
SINGAPORE ROBOT DOG WATCHES OUT SOCIAL DISTANCING IN GREEN SPACES
A robot dog named Spot is patrolling some of Singapore’s greenspace. The yellow and black machine, made by Boston Dynamics, has its own camera and keeps an eye on Bishan-Ang Moh Kio Park, making sure people aren’t clustering together.
Spot patrols about a three-km section of the park, during off-peak hours. The robot has a sensor to help it navigate the area. It also has its own loudspeaker so it can play social distancing messages to people if things seem a bit too crowded.
“Let’s keep Singapore healthy,” the message says in a video from The Straits Times. “For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one meter apart. Thank you.”
THAILAND: DOMESTIC AND REGIONAL TOURISM TO BE TOP PRIORITIES
According to Executive Vice Governor Chattan Kunjara na Ayutthaya, TAT marketing initiatives will focus on domestic travellers in a first step as Thailand borders are still restricted to travellers for the time being. “At best, that will be within their own province until new rules are adopted by the government. Our aim is to guarantee that all visitors are safe when travelling around the country. We are now finalizing the requirements for our SHA, Thailand Safety and Health Administration certification, which aims at elevating the country’s tourism industry standards and developing confidence among international and domestic tourists,” he explained during a webinar session.
Incentive programs will be offered to domestic travellers -including expats- to bring back confidence to the market and show that travelling in Thailand is safe. Once confidence is back, a second step would be o via again ASEAN and other regional markets to be back. ” A the pandemic is not stabilized in all the countries around the region, we need to probably evaluate the situation country by country”, he added. Kunjara however predicts a longer recovery for overseas markets not before the fourth quarter of the year or for early 2021. Europe would then be prioritized over other continents.
THAILAND: PIONEER OF HOTEL INDUSTRY PASSED AWAY
She was one of the most remarkable figure of Thailand hospitality and tourism industry for many decades. On May 4, Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui, the founder of Dusit International, died a few days before her 96th birthday. The lady was visionary to develop a Thai brand which was adopting a contemporary style and management. She created alone the Dusit hospitality empire and became one of the world’s prominent hoteliers. Dusit flagship, the Dusit Thani Bangkok Hotel became a symbol of Thai hospitality when it opened in 1970. It was the first skyscraper in town and at the time, the city’s largest five-star property. The Dusit Thani with its golden spire on the top, reflecting Thailand traditional architecture, closed its doors last year to give way to a new complex slated to open by 2023.
VIETNAM AUTHORITIES BAN ANY NEW AIRLINES’ SET-UP
Vietnam will not consider applications for new airlines as it looks to prioritise the recovery of its aviation sector after the impact of the novel coronavirus, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) said on Wednesday. Vietnam’s aviation market has seen double-digit annual growth over the past decade but due to the pandemic, the number of arrivals this year is expected to fall by 43% on the year, according to a Transport Ministry report in April.
“The government now has to focus on resuming domestic and international routes and supporting existing airlines, which have been hit hard by the outbreak,” the CAAV said in a statement. “The establishment of new airline will resume when the pandemic passes.”
There are five commercial airlines in operation in Vietnam: Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific, Vietjet Air, Vietnam Air Services Company (VASCO) and Bamboo Airways. Two airlines are awaiting permits, Kite Air of hospitality group Thien Minh and Vietravel Airlines of tourism firm Vietravel.