ASEAN countries are responding to the coronavirus

When the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that travel restrictions were not needed to beat the coronavirus outbreak as that would “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” on February 3, 2020, most of the world listened and followed the advice.

Yet as the world grapples with how dire the situation really is, we’re seeing more and more countries go on lockdown in a bid to try to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Outside of China and South Korea, Asia has over 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases — disrupting daily lives, travel, and trade. Now, the leaders of each nation are put to the test as the safety and fate of the citizens lie in the hands of their governments. 

Here’s an overview of the response of ASEAN governments over the past few weeks:

Brunei

Brunei has barred all citizens and foreign residents in the country from leaving. Visitors from China’s Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces are barred from entering the country, with the exception of Brunei citizens or permanent residents.

Cambodia

Cambodia has ordered the closure of schools in the capital of Phnom Penh and the popular tourist destination of Siem Reap. On March 14, the government announced a ban on the entry of foreigners coming in from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and the United States for a total of 30 days. It has also suspended all trade of wild animals.

Indonesia

Starting this week, Jakarta — along with several other provinces — have imposed school closures and remote teaching for two weeks.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Monday the authorities are not currently considering imposing a lockdown to tackle the outbreak, as its leaders await for their coronavirus test results.

Public transportation in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta — a city with a population of 9.6 million people — will now only operate from 6am to 6pm only.

The country has temporarily banned the export of facemasks to safeguard domestic supply amid the outbreak and the shortage of facemasks.

Laos

The United States’ government has provided Laos with personal protective equipment including 440 protective goggles, 1,500 surgical gowns, and 220 face shields along with biohazard disposal bags, aprons, N95 masks, safety boxes, gloves, and hand sanitizer supplies.

Authorities have announced that the 11th National Sports Games and major events and festivals have now been postponed. Many private and international schools have been closed until further notice.

Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced on Monday night strict measures to restrict movement nationwide and a two-week lockdown of the country, from March 18-31, in an attempt to contain the rising number of coronavirus cases.

After confirming 190 new cases mostly linked to a religious event at a mosque that was attended by more than 10,000 people from several countries, the country has imposed a nationwide movement control order until the end of March. The order includes comprehensive restrictions on movements and public gatherings, including bans on all religious, sports, social, and cultural activities. 

Myanmar

Myanmar’s Ministry of Health is preparing US$200,000 in funding to invest in laboratory equipment, medicines, and protective equipment to fight the coronavirus.

Visas-on-arrival for all travellers from mainland China have now been suspended. Government officials have also restricted travel and increased health checks and safety measures along its shared border with China.

Myanmar’s armed forces have announced the postponement of its annual military parade to try to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte has put the entire Philippine island of Luzon — home to 57 million people — under an enhanced community quarantine until April 12 in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus infections. 

Duterte instructed the labour and social welfare departments to implement measures that would help alleviate the burden of the lockdown on small businesses and wage workers. He also urged businesses to release the mandatory 13th month pay to their employees.

Duterte had previously announced a halt on domestic land, sea, and air travel to and from Manila, as well as strict community quarantine measures on March 15 as citizens failed to comply with standard social distancing measures.

The country has also halted stock, bond, and currency trading for the foreseeable future. 

Singapore

Singapore reacted quickly to the initial spread of the virus. Singapore implemented travel restrictions for incoming passengers and flights from mainland China on February 1. 

By March 15, Singapore had implemented travel bans for passengers arriving from the following countries: mainland China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, Spain, Germany, and the United States. Those entering from ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are issued with a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN).

Singapore citizens, permanent residents, and long-term pass holders returning from these countries are also issued SHNs lasting 14 days. 

Those issued with SHNs are required to follow strict protocols with close monitoring from the government. Those who fail to effectively report on their situation receive a penalty.

In order to uncover infections that may have otherwise been undetected, Singapore’s health authorities have decided to test all influenza-like and pneumonia cases. 

Government advertisements urge residents with even mild symptoms to see a doctor or refrain from going outside. 

Testing is free, and Singaporeans don’t need to fear exorbitant treatment costs as the government will cover hospital bills for those confirmed with the virus.

Vietnam

Weeks after declaring the recovery of all its 16 confirmed cases and being almost ready to announce Vietnam as a “coronavirus-free zone”, Vietnamese authorities announced a surge in infections from overseas during the previous couple of weeks.

Vietnam will suspend the issuance of new visas for all foreign nationals in an effort to curb the spread. The suspension will be in effect for 15 to 30 days, depending on the situation.

As of March 15, Vietnam will deny entry to passengers entering from or through mainland China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and 26 countries from the Schengen area. 

In special cases i.e., in cases where citizens and permanent residents of Vietnam who have entered from the above-mentioned areas, they will be placed under mandatory quarantine and tested for Covid-19. 

Formula One races and major festivals have been postponed. The government has urged its citizens to practice social distancing, call off large gatherings, and wear masks in public places.

Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi has announced that it will deny entry to visitors.

Schools nationwide have been closed as of Tuesday. Authorities have also ordered the closure of cinemas, clubs and bars, massage parlours, karaoke lounges, and online game centres in Vietnam’s urban areas until the end of March.

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