Asia could be the first and last of the Covid pandemic, says a travel service provider

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A health worker prepares a vial containing a Chinese Sinovac vaccine for Covid-19 coronavirus disease at a movie theater that was converted into a vaccination center in suburban Taguig City, Manila on June 14, 2021.

Ted Aljibe | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Asia was the first epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak and could be the last region to emerge from the pandemic – especially in terms of travel, according to the Asia-Pacific president of a travel services company.

“Unfortunately, Asia was the first … in the pandemic and we predict it will likely be the last out of the pandemic based on vaccination rates,” said Todd Handcock of the Collinson Group, which offers a range of travel-related services including insurance and the operation of airport lounges.

According to Our World in Data, only 22.26% of people in Asia have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. This compares to 53.03% in the US and 63.56% in the UK

The distribution of vaccines around the world is very unfair … and Asia suffers, especially Southeast Asia.

Alicia Garcia-Herrero

Chief Economist for Asia Pacific, Natixis

Handcock told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Wednesday that more people are returning to the US, UK and Europe.

“We have actually seen good domestic travel in markets like China, the United States and Russia in the past few months,” he said.

“But from an international perspective, we are starting to see vaccination rates increasing in these markets – the UK is one of the leaders in the world right now – we are seeing travel certainly increasing,” he added.

Slow vaccination campaigns

Beyond that, however, Garcia-Herrero pointed out that there is a “huge” discomfort about vaccines in Asia that “we somehow don’t find in Europe or in other parts of the world – or at least not to the same extent. “

Some parts of Asia, including Taiwan and Vietnam, have been largely successful in containing the virus, but have seen a resurgence since then.

A Natixis report released in May said that “more effective containment has resulted in less urgency” for vaccines in Asia. Apart from the skepticism about the newly developed vaccines, it says in the report.

Carrot or whip approach?

Some Asian countries have introduced incentives to encourage more vaccination, similar to the lotteries and freebies offered in the US

Hong Kong has a raffle for residents who get vaccinated. The main prize? A new one bedroom apartment valued at approximately Hong Kong $ 10,800,000 ($ 1.39 million).

India’s largest passenger airline IndiGo gives discounts to customers who have received at least one dose of a vaccine. You can get a 10% discount off the base fare when you book a flight, according to a company press release.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened prison terms.

“You choose vaccine or I’ll have you locked up,” Duterte said on Monday, according to Reuters. This comment came after reports of low participation in vaccination centers in the capital, Manila.

The president’s statement contradicts instructions from his health officials who say the vaccine is voluntary, Reuters reported.

– CNBC’s Christina Farr, Hannah Miao and Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.