Saturday, 28 May 2022

Stricter distancing measures imposed in parts of Southeast Asia

Social distancing measures and other stringent policies just got stricter in several parts of Asia as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

In Singapore, authorities have extended the “circuit breaker” partial lockdown on the island nation until early June. Recent reports indicated a new surge of confirmed cases, mainly among migrant labourers housed in crowded dormitories. Singapore has since moved to relocate thousands of these affected workers to other accommodation and facilities, with at least 19 dorms placed under quarantine.

Hong Kong has also previously seen a resurgence in cases, although only four new ones were reported yesterday, 21 April. In light of the virus’s threat, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced the extension of the special administrative region’s social distancing measures by two more weeks.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has banned “mudik” or the traditional Ramadan exodus starting Friday, 24 April, in a bid to stem COVID-19’s spread. People typically stream out of cities at the end of the Muslim fasting month in May, but this year, that practice will not be allowed.

In a meeting with his cabinet, President Joko Widodo said that “relevant preparation needs to be done” in light of the banning of mudik. The Indonesian leader cited a survey by the transport ministry showing 24% of its 260-million population insist on joining the exodus after Ramadan.

Health experts have warned the government that allowing mudik could potentially spread the disease even further. A study from the University of Indonesia has found that should mudik push through, the exodus alone could lead to a million infections by July. Banning the practice, on the other hand, would cut that figure to 750,000 cases.

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