General region overview
The varying fortunes for East Asian countries in dealing with COVID-19 has led to diverging paths for governments across the region after more than two months of managing the pandemic and the flow on effects for their economies.
Thailand and Viet Nam have begun to open certain sectors of their economy with special distancing and hygiene requirements, while South Korea has re-imposed restrictions after another spike in local infections. The Malaysian Government surprised many experts with a transition to looser, “Conditional Movement Control Orders”, and Singapore has loosened restrictions further, with around three-quarters of the economy resuming operation.
As easement of movement control orders begin to take place or are announced for the near future, there are glimpses of a return to normalcy for some areas of life in Asia, and even cautious optimism for some economies. With China's economy now largely re-opened, many East Asian nations with close links to China may get a boost, including factories in Japan and Korea. However, concerns remain about the potential for a second or third wave of infections and further returns to physical isolation.
Despite the slightly more positive outlook, significant damage has already occurred, and the effects are likely to linger to a different extent for each country and each industry. Exactly what the "new normal" for employment levels, spending habits, and freedom of movement will look like in the medium term remains to be seen.
New economic stimulus packages have been introduced or are expected to be announced in almost every East Asian country, including packages for large business, small and medium enterprise, and direct universal payment for citizens. The economic situation remains fluid for nearly every sector.