More Covid setbacks for Asian jurisdictions

cambodia

It’s not been a good week for anyone hoping for a faster opening of travel markets around Asia, with the Philippines, Cambodia and Hong Kong all reporting setbacks.

The Philippine government has announced that it is banning the entry of foreigners from March 20 to April 19 after a surge in new cases, including the discovery of new variants in the country.

The ban will include Filipinos working overseas, but there will be some exceptions for returning foreign government officials and their families and humanitarian cases.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the temporary travel restriction is stipulated under National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19

“We need to implement this decisive action to prevent the further spread of this virus and its new variants,” Roque was cited as saying by the government news agency.

The Civil Aeronautics Board has mandated that no more than 1,500 international arrivals should come through the main airport in Manila a day and any airline breaking this capacity level will face sanctions.

The Philippines was one of the hardest hit last year in terms of declines in gross gambling revenue, recording a drop of about 90 percent in 2020. The borders were closed to international travel and while Filipinos are allowed to gamble at home, the country’s casinos in Entertainment City were only able to open under strict operating conditions. The properties could only cater to selected guests and long-term hotel residents.

Elsewhere in Asia, Cambodia is still struggling to get grip on an outbreak stemming from Feb. 20 when four Chinese tourists allegedly bribed security guards in the Sokha Hotel to break quarantine and go on a spree of entertainment venues in the capital.

The result has been the worst outbreak of Covid seen in Cambodia, which has been one of the most effective nations in curbing the spread of the disease. 

The government so far has not imposed a national lockdown, but has been forced to shut down six provinces as clusters emerge. There were 75 more cases linked to the Feb. 20 incident on Wednesday, taking its total to 1,505. The majority of those — 990 — have been in the past month. Only one person has died in the country.

According to local media, one of the worst hit areas at present is Kandal province. 

Kandal houses casinos and entertainment centres which employ significant numbers of people and has now become the country’s 2rd largest province for COVID-19 positive cases after Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.

NagaCorp’s Nagaworld shut its doors again on March 1 after 11 employees tested positive, while elsewhere the picture is mixed. 

Sihanoukville, another major casino centre, has been effectively closed to travel, although the town itself has not been locked down as a whole, with closures affecting selected properties.

JinBei, one of the largest, was given permission to reopen this week.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong cases are also going in the wrong direction after a cluster at a gym used by expats and at HSBC’s headquarters. The rise has dampened hopes for an imminent opening of borders with Macau, which gets 10 to 15 percent of its GGR from its neighbour.