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August 23, 2021

There is lots of daily news about the Covid pandemic situation worldwide, including lots of misinformation. Here you can read a more compact summary about the current situation in Asia;

China

China is well on track with their vaccination program, and it is expected that it will reach 70% of the total population (1.4 billion) to be fully vaccinated by the end of this month. Several new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Hangzhou / Ningbo provinces, so the Chinese local authority has decided to shut down a few major cities and Ningbo port for 14 days. We can expect significant shipment delays during August and September, negatively affecting the volumes of the wood imports and wooden product exports. The demand for imported lumber and logs is still high as there is a big shortage in the Chinese market. The government has plans to implement a 3rd dose of vaccine for all civilian/foreign workers in China.

Indonesia          

The daily new cases still reach 15,000; however, it dropped significantly from the peak of 56,000 cases on July 15 2021. The Indonesian government expects the pandemic to last for a long time; currently, only 11% of the population is fully vaccinated. At this rate, it will take until June 2022 for 70% of the total population (280 million) to be fully vaccinated. The government is pushing for a higher vaccination rate achieving ~1 million vaccines per day. The emergency public activity restrictions still apply and is being reviewed weekly. Shopping malls start to re-open with restrictions of a maximum number of visitors and vaccination proof for both employees and visitors. Factories producing export products are allowed to operate under strict health protocols. Supported by various industry associations, most factory owners push their employees for vaccination.

Malaysia

Malaysia is making very good progress with over 400,000 vaccinations daily, and it is expected that 70% of the total Malaysian population (32 million) will be fully vaccinated by the end of September. The good news: the Malaysian government has decided to allow non-essential businesses to re-open from August 16 onwards, subject to the majority of staff being fully vaccinated. A much-welcomed decision since the whole country has been closed for almost three months! However, “subject to the majority of staff being fully vaccinated” effectively means that most factories can only operate at full capacity in the 3rd week of September.

The problems for many factories remain the lack of raw material (Malaysian sawmills have been closed for three months), shortage of workers (many foreign workers returned to their home countries) and a severe shortage of containers/vessel space at super-high shipping rates.

Thailand

The situation in Thailand has worsened over the last few weeks, with over 20,000 cases daily. The highest number of new cases appear around Bangkok. A lockdown has been imposed in 29 provinces, including Bangkok, until the end of August. Construction works are allowed to continue subject to strict SOP’s. These restrictions might be extended however factories are allowed to operate. The Thai government has been very slow with vaccinations, and to date, only 8% of the population is fully vaccinated. At this rate, it will take until February 2022 for 70% of the total population (70 million) to be fully vaccinated.

Vietnam

Vietnam recently reports over 9,000 cases per day, mainly in the southern provinces and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), with the highest infection rate per inhabitant. The actual curfew in HCMC from 6 pm till 6 am, is announced to last till September 15 if no other instructions are given. Most southern provinces follow similar lockdowns. Factories are allowed to operate as long as they can accommodate their workers in proper facilities to eat and sleep (besides working).  Factories discovering  Covid cases among their staff are closed or operate at 30-50% capacity only.

Most cities and provinces surrounding HCMC – where most manufacturing is located – follow similar lockdown regulations. Only 2% of the population is currently fully vaccinated. At this rate, it will take until February 2022 for 70% of the total population (98 million) to be fully vaccinated.