[Photos] Covid-19 in Southeast Asia: A year in pictures
Exactly one year on from the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Wuhan, it goes without saying that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. In a series of photos, the Globe revisits some of the key moments from this year in Southeast Asia, as the virus turned lives and livelihoods upside down
One year on from the first identified case of Covid-19 in Wuhan, 2020 has been a year unlike any other. In a series of photos, the Globe revisits the impact the pandemic has had across Southeast Asia
by Alexi Demetriadi
While the exact onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan remains murky in terms of specific dates – the first confirmed recording of the virus was reported by the World Health Organization on December 8, 2019. 365 days of lockdowns, masks and social distancing later – Covid-19 has made 2020 a year like no other across Southeast Asia.
Today marks the one year point from the first recorded case of the then-novel coronavirus, which evolved from outbreak to epidemic, and then global pandemic in an unnervingly short period. Across Southeast Asia, much like the rest of the globe, each passing month of the year has been as unpredictable and unprecedented as the previous. Borders across the region were slammed shut, an economic downturn followed and our assumed normal way of life was thrown out the window – with the window bolted shut, for good measure.
Indonesia has been the worst hit of the ASEAN nations with 581,550 cases recorded, as of December 7. What many have deemed a major mishandling of the pandemic by Joko Widodo’s government has only been compounded in recent months with the passing of the Omnibus Bill in October. Touted as a boost to the archipelago nation’s faltering Covid-hit economy, major riots erupted upon its passing as the general populace saw it as weakening workers’ rights to the benefit of big business.
Hot on Indonesia’s heels in pandemic mismanagement is the Philippines, which has been one of the region’s virus hotspots. Despite having one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns, President Rodrigo Duterte’s erratic and populast leadership means that the country is still Southeast Asia’s second hardest-hit with 440,000 cases. The partial closure of ABS-CBN, an important source of Covid-19 information for citizens, further worsened the response.
Malaysia saw a leadership change during the early months of the pandemic, while there have also been elections in Singapore and Myanmar. Both polls took place under unprecedented conditions, seeing not only an increase of masks at the ballot box, but also drawing controversy as opposition groups argued pandemic conditions created lopsided contests in favour of ruling parties.
Across the region, migrants living in often crowded conditions have been disproportionately affected, while long-time refugees have been thrown into further limbo as resettlement programmes among most Western countries have come to a screeching halt.
The region’s tourist hotspots – the Gulf of Thailand’s sandy beaches, Siem Reap’s temples and Singapore’s business metropolis – have never before been so quiet, drained of people thanks to the immense effect on the tourism and aviation sector.
There have been some success stories – most notably Vietnam, with some of the quickest and comprehensive lockdown measures seeing the country avoid rapid rises in infections and disruption to business and society. The region as a whole has also not seen the rate of infection or number of cases seen in Europe, the United States and parts of South America.
The photoset below is not exhaustive, but hopes to paint a picture of Southeast Asia in 2020 – from the first recorded case in Wuhan, through the first wave during the start of the year, to where we find ourselves now on the brink of a vaccine as the year draws to a close.
Let’s hope any follow-up photo series of 2021 includes less shots of masks and more of normal service resumed. But after a year that no one envisioned, take a look back at the region’s response and how Covid-19 impacted lives across Southeast Asia.