Zika virus outbreak in Singapore that has infected over 150 people is unlikely to create additional stress for the island state’s economy, which is already seeing growth faltering amid global headwinds, a media report said on Friday.
While the recent spate of Zika infections has reminded many of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Singapore more than a decade ago, the economic impact of the latest mosquito-borne virus will likely be nowhere near, economists said.
“The impact of Zika would be marginal at worst,” said Nomura Singapore’s economist Brian Tan. “Given the headwinds facing Singapore, I don’t think this is going to be the most significant issue for the economy.”
“People have been comparing this to SARS but it’s nowhere near as infectious or dangerous so we don’t expect this to have that big of an impact,” said Tan, adding that in terms of transmission, Zika is spread primarily via the Aedes mosquito and is not airborne.
OCBC Bank’s head of treasury research and strategy Selena Ling noted that the SARS epidemic in 2003 was region-wide and dealt a big hit to the travel and hospitality sectors.
“Hence, I suspect it’s going to be a muted impact unless you see a prolonged scenario and more severe medical implications,” Ling added.
However, IHS Markit’s Asia-Pacific chief economist Rajiv Biswas reckoned that the rapid escalation of confirmed locally-transmitted Zika cases remains a potential risk to the Singapore economy, particularly if the outbreak is not rapidly contained.
Experts say the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix scheduled from September 16 to 18 will be the key event to watch for any impact on the travel industry.
Still uncertainty has loomed over the local tourism sector, which accounts for nearly 10 per cent of the economy, as countries like Australia had issued travel advisories for visitors to Singapore.
Meanwhile, Malaysia and Indonesia have also stepped up protective measures by introducing thermal scanners at border checkpoints and airports, Channel NewsAsia reported.
Since the first locally-transmitted Zika infection was confirmed on August 27, dozens of newly-reported cases took the total number of people diagnosed with Zika to 151 as of yesterday, including 13 Indians who tested positive for the virus.
Government agencies have since stepped up mosquito control efforts in high-risk clusters such as Aljunied and Bedok housing and industrial estates to curb the spread of the virus.