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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to serious consequences for health, the economy and food security in South-East Asia. For the most part, South-East Asia has largely avoided the uncontrolled infection rates seen in much of the rest of the world, thanks to government action prioritising public health over the demands of the economy. That was especially evident in Vietnam where there have been just over 1,000 COVID-19 cases, despite early contact with the disease. Indonesia and the Philippines, however, have been especially badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to early mismanagement in both countries.

Though most countries in the region have escaped the worst health impacts of the disease, this has led to economic troubles for many. The Philippines is predicted to contract the most sharply in 2020, after early failures in controlling the virus led to a series of strict lockdown measures, which subsequently depressed consumption and reduced the flow of remittances. Thailand has also experienced a sharp economic contraction, which has contributed to ongoing protests in the kingdom. Only Vietnam appears to be weathering the economic consequences of the pandemic, in large part due to successful early measures to limit the spread of the virus, which allowed the country to re-open quickly.

As South-East Asia’s economies have contracted and slowed, there have been serious concerns for food security in the region. Farming, which is a major employer in most South-East Asian countries, has experienced a significant drop in rural labour due to movement restrictions, which has caused a fall in both farm productivity and rural incomes. Overall, millions are likely to fall into poverty after 2020, including millions who were otherwise predicted to escape it. As a result, food consumption has fallen among many households and significant numbers of people have reported not being able to afford enough food.

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