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IOM Asia Pacific COVID-19 Situation Report 19 - September 30, 2020

Situation Report
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The rates of COVID-19 cases in the Asia-Pacific region continue to vary by country, with the second waves of infections in several countries starting to stabilize. Daily case numbers in India, which are the highest in the region, have begun to plateau after several months of upward trends. Cases in Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal and Papua New Guinea are increasing - for some countries after months of stability. Numbers of reported confirmed cases in Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, and Republic of Korea remained stable or decreased in recent weeks.

Countries in the region continue to maintain strict and wide-ranging international travel restrictions, limiting non-citizens from entering to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, several countries are slowly starting to reopen airports and international travel.

Japan, which currently has entry limitations for citizens of 159 countries, may start lifting restrictions in October. Viet Nam, which has seen a continued decrease in numbers of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, has decided to resume some international commercial flights between Viet Nam and six destination countries.

In line with respective socioeconomic priorities, other countries are beginning to resume facilitation of both outbound and inbound migration. In Indonesia, the government has lifted a previously instated temporary ban on the placement of Indonesian migrant workers abroad, with placements to 12 destination countries now open together with additional predeparture health provisions. The reopening of formal placement channels will require efforts to inform prospective migrants on new procedures, health measures, and awareness on where and how to seek assistance once abroad. In Thailand, given the significant labour shortages on the agricultural, construction and fishing industries, the Royal Thai Government is planning for the safe return of approximately 100,000 migrant workers.

At the same time, multiple countries are preparing for potential “second waves” of COVID-19 infections. In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, IOM’s Protection teams report that the Rohingya are voicing concerns that there may be an imminent second wave of infections. Teams also report that in the past few months there has been increasing incidence of family conflicts and family separation. Certain country offices in the region are also raising concerns about increased reports of human trafficking during the pandemic. In Cambodia, as the Government announced the plan to re-open schools, many quarantine facilities that were located in schools have been moved to hospitals or health centers. Migrants continue to return to their countries of origin due to loss of livelihoods abroad, expired visas, and a general desire to return home to be with their families, and IOM country offices are advocating that governments include migrants in their socioeconomic response plans and other COVID-19 response efforts.