Here’s a 60-second speed-read of Asia Travel Re:Set Issue #30, published on 28 February 2021.
6 things we learned in Travel & Tourism in Asia Pacific last week include…
Vaccine Scepticism is Real
Political leaders in Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia took a COVID-19 vaccine jab live on TV this week. Their participation is designed to convince sceptical populations that vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccine scepticism is proving more widespread than governments and the travel sector would like to admit. Several reasons are cited, from safety concerns and a fear of side effects. In addition, some people believe that if COVID-19 infections are falling, the danger is likely to be passing. Therefore, herd immunity may be achieved without participating in the vaccine programme. In countries where total COVID-19 infections are low, and/or recovery rates are exceptionally high, this argument gains greater force.
COVAX Swings into Action
A consignment of 600,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by India’s Serum Institute was shipped to Ghana this week. The air freight delivery kickstarted COVAX’s global vaccine distribution programme. Initiated by the WHO, COVAX plans to purchase and deliver 2 billion doses of approved vaccines to 138 emerging and under-developed nations in 2021. Other countries included in the first round of COVAX deliveries were India and Cote d’Ivoire.
Tennis Vaccine Fury in Australia
This week’s big story in Australia was a public display of COVID-19 frustration at the Australian Tennis Open Men’s Final in Melbourne. Novak Djokovic easily defeated Daniil Medvedev to register his 18th Grand Slam title, but the awards ceremony grabbed the headlines. Loud booing echoed around the stadium when Jayne Hrdlicka, President of Tennis Australia, said: “With vaccinations on the way, rolling out in many countries around the world, it’s now a time for optimism and hope for the future.” Twelve months of frustration were vented by spectators at the Victoria state Premier’s micro-management of COVID-19, which involved a total of 116 days in lockdown over recent months.
“Twelve months of frustration were vented by spectators at the Victoria state Premier’s micro-management of COVID-19, which involved a total of 116 days in lockdown over recent months.”
Malaysia Tries to Persuade its ‘Fence Sitters’
As a COVAX member, Malaysia received a first vaccine shipment this week. The national programme aims to inoculate 70% of the population by February 2022. The government must overcome a low initial take-up of registrations, however. By Friday, only 1.065 million people (out of a population of 32.7 million) had registered for a jab. Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia’s Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and Coordinator of the vaccine programme, said he is “not concerned about the anti-vaxxers, but those who are on the fence.” To coax people to register for a free inoculation, the Health Director General said that inter-state travel may not be permitted until vaccinations reach the targeted 70% herd immunity threshold.
Tourism = Vaccine in Thailand
Thailand desperately needs to reboot tourism. From 39.9 million visitors in 2019, arrivals slumped to 6.7 million in 2020. The economic impact is deep and painful. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is targeting 15 million visitors in 2022. That ambitious goal will rely on swift vaccine rollouts in Thailand and its key source markets. The TAT is working to welcome vaccinated travellers from the third quarter of 2021. Thailand has purchased a sufficient quantity of vaccines, but similarly to neighbouring nations widespread public unease prevails. This week, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha volunteered to take a Sinovac jab to try and persuade people of its safety.
“This week, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha volunteered to take a Sinovac jab to try and persuade people of its safety.”
Taiwan: What’s Next After COVID Containment?
Taiwan has been universally praised for its ‘COVID Shut-Out,’ based on systematic testing and rigorous tracking, tracing and isolating. The island state has recorded just 951 cases and 9 deaths. Successful containment is presenting problems for the vaccination programme. Taiwan has purchased 20 million imported doses, and two home-developed vaccines are undergoing Phase 2 clinical trials. Up to 15 million doses of the Taiwanese vaccines may be utilised later this year. However, a new survey shows that only 60.3% of Taiwanese would take a vaccine if provided for free, 32.7% said they would not and 7% remain undecided.
This is a short summary version of Asia Travel Re:Set Issue #30: “People vs The Vaccine”