ECONOMIC activity has begun to recover in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand as Covid-19 lockdowns are lifted, said Maybank Kim Eng economists in a May 27 report.
Vietnam was the first Asean country to start unwinding lockdown measures on April 23, followed by Thailand and Malaysia in early May. The Philippines began loosening measures on May 16; Singapore will begin to exit from circuit breaker measures from June 2, but with a more cautious three-phase approach; and Indonesia plans to start a five-phase easing in early June.
Mobility metrics show the fastest recovery of activity in Vietnam, with movements to retail and recreation venues having rebounded to just 15 per cent below the baseline, compared to more than 60 per cent below baseline before measures began to lift.
Mobility is also improving in Thailand, though less so in Phuket where most tourism-related businesses remain closed; and Malaysia, where retail and recreation mobility rose to 60 per cent below baseline within 10 days of easing, from about 80 per cent previously. There is nascent recovery in Indonesia and the Philippines, and barely any yet in Singapore.
The experience of East Asian countries, which began opening earlier, seems to suggest a U-shaped recovery rather than a V- or L-shaped one, said the report. Domestic tourism is picking up in China and South Korea, while both countries are also resuming bilateral business travel via a Green Lane programme.
"Domestic tourism accounts for a significant 88 per cent of total visitor receipts in the Philippines, 50 per cent in Malaysia and 40 per cent in Thailand, and offers a lifeline to the aviation and hospitality sector," noted the economists.
They believe that some Asean countries may open to foreign visitors from selected territories, which may include South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and major cities in China.