Virus updates: Singapore braces for recession

Virus updates: Singapore braces for recession

A woman wearing a protective mask passes empty shelves of instant noodles and canned food, as people stock up on food supplies after Singapore raised coronavirus outbreak alert level to orange, at a supermarket in Singapore on Saturday. (Reuters photo)
A woman wearing a protective mask passes empty shelves of instant noodles and canned food, as people stock up on food supplies after Singapore raised coronavirus outbreak alert level to orange, at a supermarket in Singapore on Saturday. (Reuters photo)

SINGAPORE: The city-state's economy could enter recession due to the blow from the coronavirus outbreak, its prime minister said on Friday, adding that Singapore was bracing for a "significant" hit in the coming quarters.

"The impact will be significant at least in the next couple of quarters. It is a very intense outbreak," Lee Hsien Loong said in a video interview posted on his Facebook page.

"I can't say whether we will have a recession or not. It's possible, but definitely our economy will take a hit," Mr Lee said in remarks made to media at Singapore's main Changi airport.

Mr Lee said business at the airport had suffered with flights down by a third.

Singapore has in effect banned all visitors from China, its biggest source of tourists, while some countries have advised against travel to Singapore which has one of the highest virus infection tallies outside China at 58.

Its manufacturing and trade sectors may also be hit by widespread economic disruptions in China due to the outbreak.

The Asian business hub had just been showing signs of recovery from its lowest growth rate in a decade last year — a paltry 0.7% — when the outbreak spread to the city-state in late January.

Singapore is due to release final fourth-quarter growth data on Monday, and economists are anticipating revisions to its 2020 growth forecast range of 0.5-2.5%.

On Tuesday, the government is set to roll out a hefty package of budget measures to cushion the economic blow from the epidemic, with some analysts expecting it to run its biggest deficit in over a decade.

Economists at Citi and Maybank expect a virus relief package of at least S$700 million ($505 million).

In other world updates:

$605m to contain spread

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pledged HK$4.7 billion ($605 million) to the city's Hospital Authority as it grapples to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Ms Lam, the former British colony's most unpopular leader since it returned to Chinese control in 1997, also announced measures to try to alleviate the burden on businesses and residents already hit by months of anti-government protests.

Vietnam port bars cruise ship

An AIDA Cruises ship with more than 1,100 European passengers cancelled plans to visit Vietnam after a provincial government enforced a directive barring those on cruise liners that were in China recently from disembarking due to coronavirus concerns.
The AIDAvita cancelled its docking plans in Quang Ninh after the local government notified the liner it would turn away passengers, according to a representative with the province’s maritime authority.

Malaysia taking action

Malaysia will announce a stimulus package on Feb 27 to mitigate the economic impacts of the outbreak, the finance minister said.
Assistance will be given to the affected sectors, Minister Lim Guan Eng said in a statement. The government said on Tuesday the stimulus package would be earmarked for the aviation, retailing and tourism industries.

1,716 Chinese health workers infected

China National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin said 1,716 health workers have been infected and six of them have died as of Tuesday.
Mr Zeng said the number of infected medical staff is increasing.
Chinese officials and hospitals have repeatedly noted a shortage of protective equipment, including face masks, as the disease took hold in Hubei and spread throughout the country.

$5bn airline losses

The outbreak could mean a $4-5 billion drop in worldwide airline revenue, the International Civil Aviation Organization said.
The UN agency reported that 70 airlines have cancelled all international flights in and out of China and 50 others have reduced their operations.
Preliminary estimates show this has meant a reduction of nearly 20 million passengers compared to expectations for the first quarter of 2020.
That figure equates to potential lost revenue of up to $5 billion, the agency said.

Camera trade show cancelled

Japan's largest photo industry trade show due to begin in late February in Yokohama has been cancelled because of coronavirus fears, an organiser said.
"We put top priority on the health and safety of visitors and exhibitors," Camera and Imaging Products Association, the organizer of the annual event, said in a statement.
The show for consumers, CP+2020, which was scheduled to be held for four days from Feb 27 in the port city near Tokyo, was to feature the newest cameras and related devices.

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