In the last 24 hours, Thailand and Malaysia have released a number of COVID-19 related updates, as the region continues to battle the pandemic.

This includes a reduction in social security contributions for employers and employees in Thailand, and an update on cross-border travel between Malaysia and Singapore. Separately, a recent research has revealed that despite the uncertainty driven by COVID-19, the APAC flexible office market has remained strong over the past 12 months. Read on for more details.


Thailand: Social security contributions reduced to 2% a month for employers and employees

As a further COVID-19 relief measure, Thailand's Social Security Office (SSO) will be reducing monthly social security contributions by employers and employees from September until November, Bangkok Post reported. 

According to Pissamai Nitipaiboon, SSO's deputy secretary-general, cabinet has approved the SSO board's request for a reduced contribution - from 5% to 2% a month - over the three-month period starting next month.

This is the second reduction in contributions, with the first reduction implemented from March until May at the height of the pandemic in the nation. During that time, the monthly contribution by employers was reduced from 5% to 4% and the monthly contribution by employees decreased from 5% to 1%.  


Malaysia: SOPs need to be streamlined before cross-border travel between Malaysia and Singapore resumes

Malaysia's Health Director-General, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah pointed out that standard operating procedures (SOPs) have to be streamlined before cross-border travel between Malaysia and Singapore can resume, Bernama reported.

Speaking at a webinar held by EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said that both countries should have a mutual understanding and discuss how to mitigate or address the risks should there be any infections.

Citing the difference in positive testing rate in both countries, he added that Malaysia needed to be selective in giving any leeway for fear it might lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

"Our time frame for Singapore… we start this month, we can implement it. But again we looked at the situation, where we have seen the data that Singapore's positive rate is at 8.20 per cent (per 1,000 population) while Malaysia's at 0.91 per cent.. we have to decide on who to allow (in).

"Not everyone in Singapore (will be) allowed in, it is a big no to the working group of foreign workers in the country. Perhaps Singaporeans and expats living there for more than six months, they can come in," he elaborated.

He also noted that discussions with countries like Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand were still ongoing.

On a similar note, Dr Noor Hisham said in a Facebook post that there are no shortcuts out of this pandemic, it has to be science above politics, and the ASEAN region needs to work together.

Sharing an update about his meeting with the Chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI), Tan Sri Munir Abdul Majid and his team in their CARI Briefings: COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan Series webinar, he said: There are no shortcuts out of this pandemic and given the current rate of COVID-19 vaccine development — an empowered, engaged community that takes individual behaviour measures in the interest of each other is very critical to bring this pandemic under control."

Citing the widespread effect of this pandemic which goes beyond borders, he added that cooperation at the regional level must be built upon consultation with regional constituents.

"Malaysia and ASEAN must work hand-in-hand to curb the spread of the pandemic and minimise the socio-economic impact to countries. We need to be on top of the situation; Science on top of politics, Science thrives over politics. We need to continue to enhance our strategic communication and public adhering to the SOP. In ASEAN level we need to have common standards and avoid costly duplications."


Double-digit growth in flexible office space supply seen in 60% of the top 20 APAC cities last year 

Despite the uncertainty driven by COVID-19, the Asia-Pacific flexible office market has remained strong over the past 12 months.

According to Instant’s latest report, the supply of flexible workspace – consisting of coworking, serviced offices and space as a service– grew by 19% over the past 12 months in the region, the third successive year of high growth.

The region is fast catching the more established markets of Europe and the US, with nearly 10,000 centres for flexible workspace in APAC.

The report revealed that seven of the 10 fastest-growing markets for flexible workspace are now in Asia. Of the top 20 cities across the region, 60% witnessed double-digit growth in supply throughout 2019. 

Several Indian markets, including Hyderabad and Pune are currently among the fastest-growing markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, more mature markets have witnessed slower growth, mainly due to the lack of vacant office space available. Growth in Hong Kong has slowed compared to previous years, with Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta overtaking in 2019.

Sean Lynch, Managing Director of the Instant Group in Asia-Pacific, explained: "The impact of Covid-19, the first Black Swan event to be seen in a generation, has been severely felt across the industry and is not something that we can ignore. The trends that we expect to see during 2020 will no doubt be very different to what the industry has seen in the past, but the long term future still looks very healthy."

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