Asia has been a nation of firsts during the coronavirus outbreak, having been the original source of the pandemic, the first region to exit lockdown and now the first to experience second, localised waves of infection.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reaffirmed that past pandemics have been characterised by waves of activity spread over a period of months, with Beijing one of the first to experience a second spike and a series of local lockdown measures.
This has impacted dramatically on growth forecasts in Asia, while casting doubt on the long-term potential for recovery.
But what has been done so far, and how else can nations look to recover post the first wave of Covid-19 infections?
The Impact of Coronavirus and the Response so Far
As the initial wave of infections and the peak of the virus has passed, attention has turned to the widespread social-economic impact of the outbreak.
To this end, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast that total growth in Asia will stall at zero percent in 2020, with this representing the region’s worst economic performance in more than 60 years.
China remains the poster boy for this decline, with this nation’s growth declining from 6.1% in 2019 to a projected low of just 1.2% this year.
However, the initial response by China and other Asian nations has been swift and largely effective, with a raft of countries introducing various quantitative easing measures and economic stimulus packages.
This is best embodied by the efforts of economically liberated nations such as South Korea, which has formulated a cumulative stimulus package worth 270 trillion won ($221.8 billion) in response to the coronavirus outbreak. This is equivalent to approximately 14% of South Korea’s GDP, while its main focus is to support jobs and safeguard those who have lost their income stream.
At the heart of this package is a concerted drive to slash base interest rates, which in the case has served to deliberately devalue the national currency while driving international exports as a way of supporting trade and business.
This trend is prevalent throughout Asia, with many economies in the region built on manufacturing and the global export of raw materials and valuable commodities.
What Other Steps Can Asia Take to Recover from Covid-19?
From a longer-term perspective, there are other steps that Asian nations can take to boost their post Covid-19 recovery.
Take Vietnam, for example, which like many Asian nations is heavily reliant on tourism and has seen a significant decline in the number of international visitors received this year.
However, the Vietnamese government has pledged to invest huge amounts into its local hotels and transportation links (including domestic flights), in a bid to optimise domestic tourism and negate the shortfall in visitors from overseas.
Beyond this, there are also calls for Asian nations to capitalise on the opportunities created by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, particularly in terms of their core business practices and willingness to embrace renewable technologies.
Interestingly, China was already poised to become the world’s renewable energy superpower before the outbreak hit, following a sustained investment in this space. If this trend continues, Asia may well be able to recover from coronavirus on the back of a genuinely progressive shift from the current ‘business and usual’ model.