KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 -- The COVID-19 pandemic has a huge impact on the economy as the prolonged lockdown in Asia will potentially lead to employment losses estimated at as high as 167 million, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Its director-general for sustainable development and climate change Woochong Um said the number was based on a six-month containment and the most vulnerable economic sectors were the unskilled workers, small and medium enterprises, informal sector and women, that would be the hardest hit.
"It is always hard to estimate this kind of situation. I think we can still keep the number as the current estimate based on the six-month lockdown until the end of the year," he told a media briefing at the joint virtual World Economic Forum-World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific region today.
Um said the economic impact would be the heaviest on the retail sector, recreation and hospitality sector, tourism, transportation, and aviation, which were labour-intensive, as well as those businesses with heavy reliance on women, small and informal businesses.
"Many migrant workers have also lost their jobs as key host economies such as Europe, the US and the Middle East are also struggling with the outbreak," he added.
He noted that the economies would be back on track by 2021 should the situation go generally well by next year.
"But to catch up with the losses, it could take a few more years to make it up. And again, it really depends on how many waves we may experience and how quickly we learn from our experience through this first wave of the pandemic so that we can minimise multiple waves," he said.
Um said from the economic perspective, lockdowns were damaging and if there was a way to open the economy, even partially, it should help but the decision has to be made based on science and knowledge of the current situation and specific location.
Asked whether regional coordination might help in the future to help contain an outbreak, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai said information sharing on response was important towards reducing COVID-19 infections.
"WHO is trying to connect the member states in facilitating the information sharing, not just on the virus but also on the response, not just at the government level but also between the institutions involved in (fighting) COVID-19," he added.
Meanwhile, Kasai stressed that there was no room for complacency in containing the spread of COVID-19 as there is plenty of space for the virus to spread in the region.
"In this interconnected world, as long as the virus is circulating somewhere, no country is safe. We must continue responding to the current situation and preparing every corner of every country for the possibility of transmission."
Kasai said the tactics used by many countries in the Western Pacific region such as early detection, isolation and treatment, contact tracing, and mobilising the public kept the transmission at bay so far but now need to be expanded nationwide and strengthen further.
"We are now at the decisive moment and we must stay and keep vigilant for a resurgence of the virus," he added.
Malaysia National News Agency
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