Clearer skies

Southeast Asian citizens accustomed to holding their breath in anticipation of toxic haze generated annually by forest fires in Indonesia can expect clearer skies and breezy days this year, say experts who have been monitoring the region's chronic transboundary haze.

19 Jul 2021

NEWSPAPER SECTION: ASIA FOCUS

WRITER:



Delivering change

Oscar de Bok is hungry for change. He always embraces opportunities, which has led him to take leading positions with DHL Supply Chain in many parts of the world.

19 Jul 2021

Unlocking the potential of precision health

As economies begin the long process of recovery and reopening, Asia finds itself at the crossroads of resuming life amid Covid-19 while at the same time, using technology to improve healthcare delivery.

19 Jul 2021

Thailand and Indonesia get serious about plastic

Southeast Asia is one of the biggest sources of plastic waste thanks to rapid urbanisation and a growing middle class, whose consumption of plastic products is continuously rising due to increasing purchasing power and desire for convenience.

19 Jul 2021

AROUND ASIA

Buzz

Southeast Asia has become a major battlefield for one of the world's worst Covid-19 outbreaks, due to the fast-spreading Delta variant and the slow rollout of vaccines. The momentum of the outbreak in the region of 650 million people has now eclipsed previously hard-hit places like Latin America and India, with cases jumping 41% over the past week to more than 500,000, according to Bloomberg analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Deaths rose 39% in the seven days through Wednesday, the quickest pace in the world, and will likely rise further as a spike in fatalities typically follows a surge in cases. Meanwhile, Asean's overall vaccination rate of 9% lags developed regions like Western Europe and North America -- where more than half the population has received shots -- and outpaces only Africa and Central Asia. The worsening situation means many Asean states are reimposing growth-sapping movement curbs. Singapore is the exception, where sealed borders and high vaccination rates are keeping the virus contained.

  • Philippines

    The Philippines last Friday reported its first local cases of the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant. Of the 16 cases in question, six patients were in the southern island of Mindanao and are part of "a large cluster of cases", while two were detected in Metro Manila, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said. The other five were Filipinos returning from abroad. The country is stepping up testing and tracing and aims to ensure that hospitals are "ready for a surge", she added.

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  • Malaysia

    The Malaysian health ministry has approved the Chinese-made Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. It will be imported by the local distributor Duopharma, which had previously announced a deal to supply the government with 6.4 million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. Authorities have also granted conditional approval to the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine made by the US drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and manufactured in Belgium.

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  • Indonesia

    Indonesia is speeding up vaccinations as it tries to slow the surge of the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant. The vaccination rate in Jakarta, the local virus hotspot, is reaching 70% and its curve of new cases has begun to flatten, said Luhut Panjaitan, a senior minister in charge of pandemic response in Java and Bali. The country administered a record-high 2.4 million vaccine doses on Wednesday. Still, its daily average for July has hovered around 850,000 shots, below its target of 1 million. Nationwide, just 6% of the population of 270 million is now fully vaccinated.

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  • Myanmar

    Myanmar is struggling with a shortage of medical oxygen amid a spike in Covid cases. The seven-day average of reported Covid cases as of last Thursday was 4,641 a day. Cumulative deaths as of last Thursday were 4,346. But because many medical workers still refuse to return to their jobs in protest against the military coup, the actual number of infections and deaths is believed to be higher. In Yangon, people formed lines at factories to purchase oxygen for their family members who cannot be admitted to hospital due to lack of beds.The United States has expressed "deep concerns" about the coup in Myanmar and called on Asean nations to take action to end violence and restore democracy in the country. During a video conference with Asean foreign ministers last Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Asean to take "immediate action" on a five-point consensus, agreed on in April, to appoint a special envoy to Myanmar, a State Department spokesman said. The junta has rebuffed attempts to send an envoy to Myanmar until "stability", as defined by the generals, is restored.

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  • Singapore

    Singapore authorities are racing to find people linked to a growing "karaoke cluster" of Covid infections that have prompted a wider crackdown on nightspots breaking social distancing rules. Most of the 98 new local cases reported last Wednesday and Thursday were traced to the so-called KTV clubs. Bars and nightclubs have been shut in Singapore for over a year, but some KTV lounges are allowed to operate as just food and beverage outlets, without providing hostess services or dice games. The bars at the centre of the latest scare, however, were allegedly operating illegally.

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  • Vietnam

    Vietnam is looking to increase control over livestreaming on popular social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, as the government tightens its grip on cyberspace. A new draft decree comes two years after the introduction of a cybersecurity law that mandated internet companies remove content that communist authorities regard as "toxic". Under the terms of the decree, any account that operates on a social media platform in Vietnam and has more than 10,000 followers must provide contact information to authorities. Only registered accounts will be allowed to livestream. Social media providers must temporarily block or remove content within 24 hours if they receive a "justified" complaint from an affected individual or organisation.

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  • Cambodia

    The Asia-Europe Meeting scheduled on Nov 25 and 26 in Phnom Penh will be held virtually due to surging coronavirus cases in many parts of the world, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said. The 13th biennial summit of the political forum will take place online after Cambodia, the chair, postponed the gathering initially slated to be held in November 2020 twice due to "unabated risks" posed by Covid-19.

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  • Japan

    Just one-third of major municipalities in Japan are confident they can vaccinate all their residents by the end of November, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's target, according to a Nikkei survey. Local governments are responsible for most of Japan's vaccine rollout, and some have had to pause scheduling vaccinations due to distribution bottlenecks. Currently, 40% of the cities surveyed have already stopped or reduced new vaccination appointments, and a further 31% are either planning or considering doing so, according to the survey of 44 large cities outside Tokyo, plus Tokyo's Shinjuku ward.The Tokyo Olympics that begin on Friday will be a "beacon of hope" for a more peaceful future, International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach said during a visit last week to Hiroshima. Mr Bach said his visit to the city, devastated by a US-dropped atomic bomb in 1945, reaffirms the "peace mission in the Olympic movement" and called for more solidarity within and among societies. "Without solidarity there is no peace," he said.

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  • India

    India is seeing an increase in hunger, particularly in urban areas, after legions of residents had their economic security ripped away in lockdowns over the last 12 months. "This desperation for food and the long lines for rations in families with two wage earners is unprecedented," said Aditi Dwivedi, who works with migrant communities in the New Delhi at Satark Nagrik Sangathan, a group that has advocated for more food aid for the needy. The daily average wage for 230 million Indians has dropped below the 375-rupee (US$5) threshold, said a study by the Azim Premji University in Bangalore. "An alarming 90% of respondents said their households had suffered a reduction in food intake as a result of the lockdown," a study added.

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  • China

    China launched its long-awaited emissions trading system on Friday, a key tool in its quest to drive down climate change-causing greenhouse gases and go carbon-neutral by 2060. The scheme will set pollution caps for major power-consuming businesses for the first time, and allows firms to buy the right to pollute from others with a lower carbon footprint. Trading will be handled by the new Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange. Citigroup estimates US$800 million worth of credits will be bought for this year, rising to $25 billion by the end of the decade.The Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp overtook Apple in the second quarter to become the world's second-largest smartphone maker by unit sales, according to the market research firm Canalys. Xiaomi had a 17% share of worldwide smartphone shipments, up 3 percentage points from the previous quarter, Canalys said. Global smartphone shipments grew 12% in the quarter, led by Samsung Electronics with a 19% share, and Apple third with 14%. The average selling price of Xiaomi phones is 40 to 75% cheaper than Samsung and Apple models, but the company is aiming to grow sales of its high-end devices this year.

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  • South Korea

    South Korea added jobs for a fourth straight month in June, as a recovering economy kept the momentum alive in employment before new virus outbreaks triggered Seoul's toughest restrictions yet. Employment rose by 582,000 from a year earlier, the statistics office said, while the jobless rate inched down to 3.7%. Korea's economy has powered ahead this year on the back of strong exports and investment, but the prospect of a prolonged outbreak is now a key risk to the outlook.

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  • Australia

    About 12 million Australians were under stay-at-home orders after Melbourne was placed into a "hard and fast" lockdown last Thursday, joining Sydney, as the country tries to keep a lid on the spread of new coronavirus infections. Victoria state premier Dan Andrews said he took the decision to return the city — and surrounding Victoria — to its fifth lockdown "with a heavy heart" but it was an "absolute necessity". The initial lockdown period was for five days.

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  • North Korea

    North Korea is facing its worst food shortages in more than a decade, it said in a report to the United Nations, giving the world notice that Pyongyang is bracing for one of its biggest domestic challenges since Kim Jong-un took power. Food production dropped to its lowest level in 2018 due to "natural disasters and weak resilience, insufficient farming materials and low level of mechanisation", North Korea said in a voluntary report linked to a UN review of the country's Sustainable Development Goals. It was the first time North Korea had made such a report public. Pyongyang also blamed its troubles on UN sanctions put in place to punish it for tests of nuclear weapons and missiles.

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IN NUMBERS

Nareerat Wiriyapong

COMMENTARY

Vaccine collaboration crucial now

Southeast Asia has been under attack from the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant lately, and the fact that a large portion of the population is unvaccinated makes it extremely hard for countries to curb the spread.

READ MORE >

Other News

19 Jul 2021

Vaccine collaboration crucial now

Southeast Asia has been under attack from the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant lately, and the fact that a large portion of the population is unvaccinated makes it extremely hard for countries to curb the spread.

19 Jul 2021
12 Jul 2021

Live with Covid, be extra cautious

As the global death toll caused by the protracted Covid pandemic topped four million last Thursday, Japan formally decided to put Tokyo under a state of emergency through Aug 22. And Olympic organisers bowed to the inevitable, saying the Tokyo Games would be closed to spectators.

12 Jul 2021
12 Jul 2021

Capping carbon

While the world has been fighting the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, the global emergency posed by climate change is growing more alarming. Powerful nations are rolling out plans and policies to weather the crisis and hoping to bring the rest of the world into line.

12 Jul 2021
12 Jul 2021

The right advice for the pandemic recovery

Last year, I lost my teacher, friend and most valued research colleague, and the world lost a brilliant economist. Richard Cooper was one of my supervisors when I was pursuing my PhD at Yale University. As a doctoral candidate, I benefited from a "dream team" of economists, each of whom enriched my life and work tremendously.

12 Jul 2021
12 Jul 2021

Right-to-repair movement could curb e-waste

The volume of electronic goods thrown away continues to climb every year, reaching a record 53.6 million tonnes in 2019. Experts predict this number will grow by 3-4% annually, and even the most aggressive recycling efforts will have little effect -- of the 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste created in 2019, only 9.3 million tonnes were recycled.

12 Jul 2021 1
5 Jul 2021

Practical recovery strategy needed

The arrival of about 400 vaccinated international travellers in Phuket on Thursday was something to celebrate for people on the hard-hit resort island. They were the first visitors from abroad in 15 months.

5 Jul 2021
5 Jul 2021

Indonesia could have key EV edge

Indonesia is the world's top producer of nickel, accounting for up to 30% of global production. It has the world's largest nickel reserves, which are set to last for more than 30 years, and also boasts large amounts of copper, bauxite and nickel ore.

5 Jul 2021
5 Jul 2021

Innovating to improve post-pandemic healthcare

There are clouds overhead in Southeast Asia, as fresh Covid-19 infections and new variants drive rising cases and lockdowns in countries including Thailand. But despite the current challenges, there is welcome light on the horizon as we look beyond the pandemic.

5 Jul 2021
5 Jul 2021

Skills challenge

Human capital development has played a vital role in the success of thriving economies. However, when the skills of workers fail to align with the needs of industry, the mismatches and imbalances in the labour market can keep an economy from reaching its potential.

5 Jul 2021
28 Jun 2021

Common ground

The European Union (EU) is turning east as it seeks to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where the major events of the current century will unfold, by forming closer relationships with Asean and its members.

28 Jun 2021