PREPARING FOR “NEW NORMAL” AS COVID-19 LOCKDOWNS BEGIN TO EASE

 

As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe since early March, lockdown measures were also taken by many governments to stem the spread of the virus. Now that some countries are preparing to lift or at least ease some of the restrictions previously imposed, it is fair to assume that life is unlikely to be the same compared to how it was prior to the outbreak.

From Paris to New York to Bangkok, lives were brought to a standstill while economic activities were largely halted due to various restrictions. As a start, social distancing will be a common practice whenever one is out of his or her home. Parks, malls, bars, restaurants as well as public transportation will be among the most affected by such measure that aimed at minimizing the risk of infection among the patrons. For instance, buses could limit the number of passengers at a go while cinemas might also choose to leave some seats empty during each show.

During the lockdown period, many companies also made the transition from working in office to working from home. Although such transition still depends largely on the sector and the type of jobs involved, it cannot be denied that such option is viable as companies begin to realise some face-to-face communication could easily be replaced with an e-mail as well as many other applications such as Teams, Skype and Hangouts among others. Additionally, flexible hours or alternating workforce in offices could also be something to look upon until the outbreak is fully controlled. Schools or colleges are also likely to be closed for a while even as lockdowns are lifted as online learning is expected to take the centre stage.

Intra and inter-state travelling could also become more restrictive as places where the virus remains a concern could see people being allowed to only travel within a certain radius. In Europe for instance, moving around the Schengen Area could also be less breezy as governments remain doubtful that all border restrictions can be completely lifted despite the pandemic situation showing signs of abating in some countries. Even if travelling is relaxed, pre-departure screening that includes temperature checks as well as health declarations at transport hubs imposed since the beginning are also likely to stay for the foreseeable future. The above-mentioned are some of the issues that are worth pondering with more and more countries slowly emerging from lockdowns in the coming months. Until a vaccine is being made, the adaptation of this “new normal” will be critical as societies gradually recover from the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

 

Expected date of Covid-19 lockdown/restrictions being eased

Switzerland – 27 April
South Africa – 1 May
India – 3 May
Italy – 4 May
Lesotho – 5 May
Hong Kong – 7 May
Bahrain – 7 May
Colombia – 11 May
France – 11 May
Malaysia – 12 May
Philippines – 15 May
Netherlands – 20 May
Singapore – 1 June

Note: These dates are correct as of 24 April though they may subject to change as the situation develops. Further regular updates are available on the Safeture app

 
 

PREDICTED IMPACTS OF COVID-19 IN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY

 

The global travel industry has, undeniably, been one of most affected sectors by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a study conducted by the World Travel and Tourism Council, predictions suggest losses could reach 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue, while other briefings indicate that at least 63,8% of travellers plan to cancel or reduce their travel plans over the next 12 months.  These projections are largely based on how the Covid-19 pandemic has already changed dynamics for current travelling and, thus, it is also essential to look at present conditions to better understand what is expected to persist during May and the months ahead.

One instance that has played a major role in changes in airline operations and accommodation availability is government-imposed travel and entry restrictions on both nationals and foreign citizens. The unprecedented 30-day ban on flights from European Schengen area countries into the United States imposed in March 2020 is a clear example of how several airlines had no choice but to readapt operations in a very short notice. Restructuring of routes with limited time leads to a domino effect that impacts customers with both approaching and distant journeys. This is as airlines face the uncertainty in terms of permission to continue operation while the demand for re-bookings and refunds put a strain on their customer service capabilities.

Through March and April 2020, Safeture published almost daily alerts on airlines from all over the globe halting or reducing operations and extending flight cancellations, besides occasional files for bankruptcy. And, while on one hand, some countries such as Switzerland, the United States and Ghana have indicated that lockdown measures will be eased from early May 2020, several countries have extended quarantine measures and entry restrictions through at least the middle of the month, such as Bangladesh, Spain and Haiti.

Another important trend is the discussion on how to reintroduce air travel in accordance with safety standards to prevent the Covid-19 spread. Options being discussed include social distancing in airplanes and passenger certification on immunity against the virus – both pose practical challenges in terms of financial costs and also in the establishment of reliable systems, especially to gather tests results from different sources with a yet-to-be-developed recognised level of immunity control. International consensus on what is acceptable for safety standards might be arduous to reach over a short term, which in turn can mean new travel bans and restrictions. Thus, the travel industry during May is anticipated to remain affected by a certain instability, even if the pandemic gets under control and an effective vaccine is developed.

 
 

ON THE RADAR

Surge in bandit attacks in Nigeria despite Covid-19 lockdown

 

Parts of Nigeria have been experiencing a spike of bandit attacks as country went into a lockdown for most of April due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Deadly attacks were reported in Katsina, Plateau as well as Zamfara states as bandits who struggled to cope with curfews imposed by local governments, targeted villages for food supplies. As a result, there have been concerns that such attacks on vulnerable communities will rise in the coming months and leave more misery for residents, who are already feeling the economic pinch due to the government lockdown.

Taliban begins annual spring offensive in Afghanistan

 

The Taliban militants have launched its annual spring offensive in April and more attacks against government interests and foreign forces are possible in the month ahead. Despite preparations for next round of peace talks, Taliban fighters continued to engage in heavy clashes with government forces, leaving hundreds of troops and citizens dead. Major attacks as well as clashes have been recorded in several provinces including Kunduz, Ghazni, Balkh, Helmand, Takhar as well as Kandahar among others though high-profile incidents the capital, Kabul have dropped slightly.

Airstrikes against Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group intensify amid sign of increased capability

 

An upsurge of US coalition airstrikes has been recorded since the beginning of 2020 amid a report by the UN Security Council that noted Al-Shabaab’s group increased capability in hitting complex targets with precision and accuracy. Despite being targeted in multiple airstrikes, the Al-Qaeda aligned militant group continued to defy the pressure, showing their adaptation to conventional warfare strategies as well as increased resilience through continuous mortar and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on AMISOM and SNA troops. There are fears of more such attacks throughout the month of May as the Somali government ramped its efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 cases and at the same time combating the threat of the Islamist militant group.

Subdued affair expected for International Workers’ Day on 1 May

 

The International Workers’ Day celebrations that fall on 1 May is likely to be a low-key affair across the globe due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As many governments impose lockdowns in cities or towns, any large-scale rallies to mark the day will likely be prohibited to prevent the spread of the virus. Despite this, some labour groups could still attempt to hold smaller-scale events and they are likely to encounter heavy resistance by the authorities.

MAY TIMELINE

What to look out for this month:

 

International Workers’ Day celebrations across the globe

 Wesak Day celebrations in parts of Asia

 Victory Day and related celebrations in Russia

10  Presidential election in Poland

20  General election in Burundi

20  Parliamentary election in Syria

23–24  Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Muslim-majority countries around the world

 

Contributors

Chan Cheong
Senior Analyst and Office Manager Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ezza Omar
Analyst Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Gabriela Ribeiro de Araujo
Analyst Sao Paulo, Brazil

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© Safeture 2020