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Friday, March 20, 2020, 23:03
S'pore suspends large events, Jakarta declares emergency
By Agencies
Friday, March 20, 2020, 23:03 By Agencies

Commuters wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 leave the Mass Rapid Transit train station in Singapore on March 18, 2020. (CATHERINE LAI / AFP)

JERUSALEM / DUBAI / NEW DELHI / SYDNEY / TOKYO / KATHMANDU - Singapore will prohibit events and gatherings of 250 or more people as it steps up measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The government said there were 40 new virus cases as of 12 pm on Friday, taking the total to 385. Thirty of the new infections were imported and the majority of these were Singapore residents returning home, it said.

The move to ban large gatherings is an expansion of the previous requirement for ticketed sports, cultural and entertainment events to be limited to less than 250 people, the Ministry of Health said in a statement. The ministry also urged employers to make it easy for staff to work from home, and said it would extend the suspension of some activities for seniors by another 14 days until April 7.

Operators who don’t comply with the requirement to suspend large gatherings can be prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act and anyone convicted for a first offence could be fined as much as S$10,000 and jailed for as long as six months.

Indonesia

The governor of Jakarta on Friday declared a state of emergency for the next two weeks in the Indonesian capital, center of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Anies Baswedan also said that public entertainment such as bars, spas and cinemas would be shut from Monday and public transportation limited. He urged companies to let staff work from home.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday he would use "all state power" to tackle the health and economic problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

As of Friday, Indonesia had 369 confirmed cases and 32 deaths, according to a health ministry official. Jakarta, a city of 10 million people, had 215 confirmed infections and 18 deaths.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday he would use "all state power" to tackle the health and economic problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Sri Lankan government soldiers in protective clothes spray disinfectants at a railway station in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (PHOTO / AP)

Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan government declared a nationwide curfew which will begin at 6:00 pm Friday and end at 6:00 am local time Monday to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the island country.

In a statement, the President's office urged all Sri Lankans to abide by the curfew and stay indoors.

The religious body that oversees mosques in the nation directed all of them to shut indefinitely. 

Sri Lanka has so far confirmed 59 COVID-19 patients while over 230 are under observation in designated hospitals across the country.  

Japan

The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stands at a total of 41 people, according to the health ministry, with the figure including those from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama, close to Tokyo.

The health ministry said there are currently a total of 61 patients considered severely ill and are on ventilators to receive respiratory assistance or have been admitted to intensive care units.

The ministry said, meanwhile, that a total of 766 people have been discharged from hospitals after their symptoms improved.

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe issued instructions at a coronavirus taskforce meeting to compile concrete steps urgently to reopen schools as a new school year starts in April in Japan, Jiji news agency reported on Friday.

Afghanistan

"Within the last 24 hours, two new COVID-19 cases were reported in western Herat province, bordering Iran. The latest cases, both of which were imported cases from Iran, have brought to 26 the total number of the affected people by infection disease, including 15 in Herat," Wahid Mayar, spokesman of Public Health Ministry, said in a statement.

All the 26 infections were imported cases from overseas.

Australia

Australi Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a five-month delay in handing down the federal budget as his government grapples to limit the economic impact of the coronavirus. The budget will be moved to Oct. 6 from May 12, Morrison told reporters Friday.

Morrison also announced stricter restrictions on non-essential indoor gatherings, requiring each person at an assembly, which had already been cut under 100 people, must be provided with at least four square meters of space.

Australian banks on Friday said they would defer loan repayments for six months for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus in a A$100 billion (US$57.34 billion) relief package.

Australia's central bank bought A$5 billion (US$2.87 billion) in local government bonds on the first day of its bond buying program on Friday as it looks to cushion the economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic.

Within days, Australia will unveil a second stimulus package designed to shelter its economy from the impact of the coronavirus, two sources familiar with the government’s plan told Reuters on Friday.

News Corp Australia reported that Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg may consider nationalizing transport services, including airports and airlines, if even only temporarily as the economy continues to crash.

Australia has recorded over 700 coronavirus infections with seven deaths.

Seperately, three people among 4,000 passengers and crew onboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship that docked in Sydney were tested positive for COVID-19.

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said some 2,700 passengers who disembarked on Thursday had left their contacts and that they were urged to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Bangladesh

The Bangladeshi government has decided to assign army to help combat the viral pandemic.

Bangladeshi Health Minister Zahid Malik announced the decision Thursday, saying the army will be used to build special quarantine facilities in Tongi on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.

Meanwhile, the minister said the government is contemplating to lockdown vulnerable areas to contain the outbreak of the disease.

READ MORE: Coronavirus surges across Southeast Asia

An Indian auto rickshaw driver wears a face mask as a precaution against COVID-19 while he waits at a traffic signal in Hyderabad, India, March 19, 2020. (MAHESH KUMAR / AP)

Bhutan

Bhutan reported the second case of the COVID-19 on Friday in the partner of the first virus patient in the country.

The 59-year-old woman was kept in quarantine since March 5 and has tested positive for the COVID-19 Friday.

The first patient has been evacuated back to the Unites States last week.

Cambodia 

Cambodia has begun to accept donations for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister Mam Bunheng said on Friday.

DPRK

The first shipments of international medical aid are due to arrive at the borders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) this week to shore up its defenses against the coronavirus.

Some aid organizations had to get emergency sanction exemptions from the United Nations to clear the way for the shipments and are now navigating the DPRK’s border controls.

India 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday appealed to citizens to observe a self-curfew on March 22 as part of a trial-run to test social isolation to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In his address to the nation, Modi said the growing challenge posed by the coronavirus was not normal, and urged everyone to practice social distancing.

India's westerly state of Maharashtra on Friday decided to close all shops and offices except those providing essential services in India's financial capital Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur until March 31 in an attempt to restrict the spread of coronavirus, the chief minister of the state said.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India rose to 199 on Friday, India's federal health ministry said.

ALSO READ: NZ, Australia, Philippines deny entry to all foreigners

Iran 

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak rose by 149 to 1,433 on Friday, a health ministry official tweeted, adding that that total number of confirmed infections had increased by 1,237 to 19,644.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a live speech on state TV for the Persian new year, praised Iranians for their “dazzling” sacrifices to fight the coronavirus outbreak in the worst-affected country in the Middle East.

Separately, President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Friday, praising doctors and nurses for their courage in fighting the virus.

“Our nation has managed to reach its goals, despite difficulties ... Iran will overcome the coronavirus with unity,” Rouhani said in a speech at the start of the Iranian New Year.

Iraq

Iraqi Health Ministry on Thursday confirmed one more death from COVID-19 and 15 new cases, bringing the total number of the infected to 192.

The new cases included four in the capital Baghdad, five in Najaf, three in Babil and one each in the provinces of Dhi Qar, Basra and Karbala, the ministry said in a statement.

Israeli families stand on their balconies and applaud to their medical teams fighting the coronavirus outbreak in the town of Ashkelon, Israel, March 19, 2020. (TSAFRIR ABAYOV / AP)

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday tightened a national stay-at-home policy, saying police would now enforce restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus.

Netanyahu said Israelis would still be allowed to shop for food and medicine, and some workers would be exempted. 

Any violation will involve a fine of up to 14,400 new shekels (about US$3,945) and imprisonment of up to six months.

The Israeli army said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will take part in civilian duties while still maintaining operational ability and continuing to defend the country.

The number of novel coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 705, the Ministry of Health said Friday.

Of the 271 patients being treated in hospitals across Israel, 10 are in serious condition and 18 in moderate condition.

Forty-seven cases have been reported among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Kuwait

Kuwait reported 11 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 159, Kuwaiti Health Ministry announced on Friday.

Laos 

Lao capital Vientiane authorities have instructed various businesses to not increase prices of consumer goods and services amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Separately, The authorities have confirmed that the Lao Bao-Dansavan International Checkpoint between Vietnam and Laos in Savannakhet province is open despite fears of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith gave the order to temporarily close traditional and local level border crossings around the country to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak after a government meeting on Wednesday.

Maldives

The government of Maldives has decided to subsidise the cost of water and electricity for the next two months in order to provide financial support to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local media quoting Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer reported Friday.

Ameer said that US$19.5 million has been allocated by the government to pay for 40 percent of all electricity bills and 30 percent of all water bills in the months of April and May.

The Maldives government has taken several measures to support tourism, fish exports, and small and medium enterprises amid a COVID-19 outbreak that has seen 13 infections in the country so far.  

A policeman holds a notice at a roadblock as they ensure that people abide by the movement control order in Ipoh, Perak state, Malaysia, March 19, 2020.  (PHOTO / AP)

Malaysia 

Malaysia will deploy the army from Sunday to assist police in enforcing a restricted movement order aimed at reining in the spread of a coronavirus, the government said.

Malaysia on Friday announced a third fatality due to COVID-19 besides 130 newly confirmed cases, bringing the total number in the country to 1,030, said the Health Ministry.

The third death was a 58-year-old man who attended a large scale religious event held near the capital of Kuala Lumpur from late February to early March, Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said.

Of the new cases, at least 48 were traced to the same event, Noor Hisham said in an earlier daily update of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, out of the total cases, 87 have been cured and discharged from hospital, while 26 were currently being held in intensive care and in need of assisted breathing.

In a televised address, Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah on Friday urged Malaysians to refrain from unnecessary travel, to comply with measures imposed by the authorities and not spread rumors or incorrect information.

He added that the public need not panic as there were sufficient supplies of essential items, calling on the public to stop panic buying.

Myanmar

The Labour Department under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population recently sent overseas employment agencies a directive for suspension of sending the migrant workers to foreign countries from Wednesday.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s central bank announced emergency measures on Friday including term loans to banks, intervention in markets and an agreement with the US Federal Reserve to access up to US$30 billion to support the economy from the impact of coronavirus.

Air New Zealand said on Friday it was offered a NZ$900 million (US$514 million) lifeline by the government to keep the airline flying as travel curbs to stem the coronavirus outbreak threaten the survival of many airlines globally.

Eleven new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand were confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 39 on Friday.

All of the new cases were linked to overseas travel, said a statement of the Ministry of Health.

Qatar

Qatar on Thursday reported eight more infections to take its tally to 460, the highest number among the six Gulf Arab states that have reported a total of more than 1,300 coronavirus cases.

Qatari authorities on Tuesday announced the closure of several square kilometers of its old industrial area in Doha, the capital, which also contains labor camps and other housing units.

Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabia on Friday decided to suspend all domestic flights, buses, taxis and trains for 14 days to prevent the coronavirus outbreak, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Flights associated with humanitarian assistance and medical evacuation as well as private planes are immune from the decision that will come into effect from Saturday, SPA said.

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it suspended Muslims from conducting their five daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer in the overflow area just outside the walls of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina to limit the spread of coronavirus.

King Salman spoke publicly on Thursday for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, saying the kingdom will take measures to curb its spread and urged citizens to work together to confront the pandemic.

Face-masked people walk past closed restaurants, in Ankara, Turkey, March 19, 2020. (PHOTO / AP)

South Korea

South Korea reported 87 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of midnight Friday local time, raising the total number to 8,652.

The newly confirmed cases fell below 100 once again, after recording 152 on Thursday. The caseload grew in double figures from Sunday to Wednesday.

Three more deaths were confirmed, lifting the death toll to 94. The total fatality rate came in at 1.09 percent.

Thailand 

Thailand reported 50 new coronavirus infections, taking its tally to 322, a health official said on Friday, with the majority located in Bangkok, the capital.

A group of 41 new cases is linked to earlier infections, while another, of nine, centres on overseas arrivals and contact with foreigners. Thailand has had one death in the outbreak. 

Thailand's air force personnel have sterilized some major public spots in Bangkok's northern outskirts against COVID-19.

The Philippines

The Philippines' health ministry on Friday recorded 13 new coronavirus cases and one death as the country's main island is under strict quarantine measures.

The new coronavirus has infected 230 people in the Philippines, resulting in 18 deaths, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a regular news conference.

Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree on Friday postponing all events related to science, culture and art, as it seeks to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.

The death toll in Turkey due to the coronavirus rose to four, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Thursday, adding there was a total of 359 confirmed cases in the country.

Uzbekistan

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has issued a decree to set up an anti-crisis fund worth US$1.05 billion under the state's finance ministry to overcome negative economic consequences of the disease, the Uzbek Ministry of Justice said Friday.

The fund will be used to support the efforts against the coronavirus' spread and provide assistance to low-income families, according to Uzbek state TV.

Vietnam

Vietnam will quarantine all international arrivals from March 21 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, its health ministry said on Friday.

Vietnam has confirmed 87 coronavirus infections, many of them brought from overseas, with no deaths.

Nepal 

With the increasing spread of COVID-19 infection across the world including in South Asia, Nepal government has suspended issuing trekking permits for foreigners from Friday.

Issuing a statement Friday, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), the country's main tourism promotion body, informed that it has stopped the issuance of Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) Card for foreign trekkers.

The suspension will be effective from 12pm local time Friday until further notice.

Earlier this week, the Nepal government banned all passengers entering Nepal from Europe, West Asia, Gulf and countries like Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, in addition to the suspension of all on-arrival visas.

The ban on arrivals will come into effect from Friday midnight to April 15.

Nepal has only reported a single case of the novel coronavirus of a student in January. The patient has recovered and was discharged. As of March 19, Nepal has tested 545 samples of which all are negative, according to the Ministry of Health and Population.


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