April 4, 2020 – More than 3,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) three weeks after an outbreak was reported in the Philippines, surpassing on Friday Malaysia as the new epicenter of the highly contagious respiratory disease in Southeast Asia.
The Philippines was also behind Indonesia with the highest number of deaths after 29 people died on Friday, also the biggest single day fatalities, bringing the total to 136. Indonesia has 170 casualties.
Based on individual country reports, all ten member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), nearly 11,500 cases have been reported in one of the fastest growing regions in the world.
Laos and Myanmar have the lowest number of cases with ha10 and 15, respectively and only Laos and Vietnam have reported no deaths as the pandemic, which originated in China in December 2019, spreads to more than 205 countries and territories.
More than a million people have contracted the disease and the death toll has exceeded 54,000 and roughly 20 percent have recovered from the disease as restrictions imposed by individual countries likely to extend beyond May 1.
Almost all Southeast Asian countries, by now, have closed their borders, preventing their citizens from traveling and allowing tourists to be repatriated, except those found to be infected as they are given treatment in medical facilities facing tough challenges due to lack of equipment and supplies, like face masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs).
Schools, shops, and travel were closed. Private and public offices were shut down for a period of two weeks to one month in most Southeast Asian countries as government rushed stimulus package to mitigate social and economic impact of the corona virus.
The Asian Development Bank on Friday released its flagship annual economic outlook, forecasting the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) to grow only by 2.0 percent this year, the lowest since 2010.
From the time President Rodrigo Duterte was elected into office in 2016, the country’s economic growth rate has been sliding from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent last year.
On Monday, the popular leader unveiled a 275-billion-peso social protection package, the largest-ever program to subsidize more than 18.5 million poor households for two months during the lock down as it disrupted businesses causing job losses.
The Philippines’ economic package was slightly lower than the $6.36 billion Vietnam has allocated to revive its own economy hit by the coronavirus as tourism, trade and factories were stopped.
Wealthier Southeast Asian countries have largest economic packages, like Malaysia’s $58 billion and Singapore’s $33 billion. Thailand has a much lower package of $3.25 billion. Indonesia which has rising cases at nearly 2,000 has earmarked $24 billion to fight coronavirus.
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