The economic impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, as businesses have put in place telecommuting plans and quarantine measures if you are suspected to be at risk of transmitting the virus, following the rise of the risk assessment to DORSCON Orange.
What are the industries that have been or will be severely impacted? And, is there anything that we can do about it?
#1 Retail and Property
According to research done by Colliers International, a Canada-based global commercial real estate services organization, one of the vulnerable markets amid this viral outbreak is the property and retail industry.
This follows an expectation of dampened consumer sentiment and the delayed recovery of the property market, whose rents fell 1.3 per cent year on year for Orchard and stayed flat for regional centres the whole of 2019.
#2 Food and Beverage
Restaurant operators in Singapore are bracing for a hit on their revenue, with an estimated 80 per cent drop in their businesses as tourists and locals avoid public places following the raised risk level to DORSCON Orange.
This lies amid expectations that there will be fewer patrons in restaurants, following the panic-buying sprees in supermarkets and grocery stores.
On top of that, restaurants operating in areas targetting tourist arrivals are expected to see falling sales. South Korea and Israel have told their citizens to defer travels to Singapore, and Indonesia and Taiwan have recommended precautions should their citizens travel to Singapore.
The Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) has written to 24 major shopping mall landlords requesting for a temporary cut in rent, in a pre-emptive measure to avoid a collapse in the F&B industry. The F&B association has over 450 members, that span over 3,600 operational outlets including restaurants, caterers, fast food outlets and food courts.
Jewel Changi was the first to respond with a 50 per cent rental rebate for February and March, following further review of the situation. In the meantime, some RAS members have put staff on unpaid leave and stopped engaging part-timers. The closure of F&B outlets will be imminent without these measures as rental and labour costs make up about 55 per cent of operational costs.
The tourism sector is invariably affected as seen in the decline in air traffic through Changi and an increase in hotel room cancellations as more travellers change their travel plans. Tourism and transport are considered the hardest-hitting sectors from the outbreak of COVID-19.
For the tourism sector, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has announced a waiver of licence fees for hotels, travel agents and tour guides, as well as the defraying of cleaning costs for hotels that housed confirmed and suspected cases of the virus. This follows expectations that visitor arrivals are estimated to fall by a significant 25 to 30 per cent this year.
Since the announcement of DORSCON Orange, cabbies have reported a drop in earnings of over 25 per cent, while private-hire drivers have seen a drop of over 30 per cent in their business.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Ministry of Transport (MOT) transport industry have announced a $77 million point-to-point package for taxi and private-hire car drivers to defray business costs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
To cope with the business losses, the government will contribute S$45 million towards the package, with the remaining provided by taxi and private-hire car operators. About 40,000 eligible drivers will get up to S$20 per vehicle per day for 3 months.
Exercise Social Responsibility, And Be Mindful Of Vulnerable Groups
As of now, there are a total of 75 confirmed cases in Singapore.
There are other vulnerable groups that will be heavily inconvenienced and impacted in a viral outbreak such as COVID-19. Examples include healthcare institutions, schools, eldercare, pre-school education centres and event sites. These vulnerable communities are potential hotspots for transmission that we may have to be extra mindful of.
DORSCON Orange also means that the general population should exercise social responsibility. It’s a shared commitment to reduce and stop the risk of transmission. Some practices that can be put in place could include business putting in place telecommuting plans, or even splitting the teams into segregated groups so that the risk of transmission is much lower.
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