During these challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EDC remains committed to helping Canadian businesses. In this new series, we’ll share our feet-on-the-ground insights about markets around the world and how they’re being impacted by the health crisis. Today, we visit Klaus Houben, our chief representative for Southeast Asia, based in Singapore.
Klaus HoubenSenior Regional Manager – EuropeExport Development Canada
Singapore is currently facing the second wave of COVID-19 infections. The first wave was in February with around 140 confirmed cases and no fatalities. But with the return of Singaporeans and expats from Europe and North America in March, the second wave hit. Now, more than 800 are infected and three dead.
To contain the virus, travel restrictions were imposed right away, and temperature screening was mandatory at the airport. Anyone travelling from mainland China wasn’t allowed to enter or transit through Singapore.
All borders are now closed and no short-term visitors (tourists) are allowed into Singapore. People returning from the United Kingdom and United States are quarantined in hotels paid for by the government and 40,000 people have been issued two-week “stay home” notices, which is putting delivery services under pressure.
Like other countries, Singapore has put social distancing measures in place. All major events have been cancelled and any gathering of more than 10 is prohibited. Cinemas and theatres are closed and although malls are still open, citizens are urged to only go shopping if they need essentials. Temperature screening and self-declaration forms with your contact information must be completed before entering a mall to make it easier for the government to trace potentially infected people who’ve been in contact with the infected.
Which sectors in your region are hardest hit by the pandemic?
For Singapore and major parts of Southeast Asia, tourism, aviation and food service have been hit the hardest, although the crisis has impacted all industries. In the Philippines, where a lot of our gross domestic product (GDP) is generated, shared service centres are also impacted. The low oil price will also affect the major state-owned enterprises in the region.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing Canadian companies doing business in your region?
Like in other parts of the world, travel restrictions prevent company representatives from entering markets for matchmaking and connecting with potential customers.
What is the general feeling in your business community?
Singapore has put the second stimulus package in place. Malaysia is supporting industries as well. With some restrictions in place, there are mixed feelings in Singapore since it’s a hub heavily dependent on trade and open borders.
How is EDC helping in market?
We’re trying to help Canadian exporters stay in touch with potential buyers by encouraging and organizing conference calls and video calls, and providing information about the situation on the ground.
To learn how EDC is helping international businesses manage the negative impacts of COVID-19, visit this page.