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Wednesday, March 04, 2020, 23:26
Japan eyes special legislation as COVID-19 cases top 1,000
By Agencies
Wednesday, March 04, 2020, 23:26 By Agencies

People wearing face masks walk on a street in Tokyo's Ginza district on March 2, 2020. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

TOKYO/SEOUL/SYDNEY/HANOI/CANBERRA/DUSHANBE/ALMATY/NEW DELHI/BAGHDAD - The Japanese government is planning to implement a special law to enable it to make better provisions to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and declare a state of emergency if necessary, as the number of infections in Japan topped 1,000 on Wednesday, the ruling party sources said.

Among all those infected in Japan, 706 are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, while 12 have died, the health ministry said

The special law, which will be effective for a period of up to two years, could see the government revise the existing law on novel influenza and make it applicable to the new coronavirus, the sources said.

ALSO READ: S. Korea 'at war' with virus, India testing six in Agra

Among all those infected, 706 are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and a total of 12 have died, of which six were from the ship, the health ministry said.

Five new infections were reported as of Wednesday afternoon, in locations from Yamaguchi prefecture in the west to Hokkaido in the north, underlining the virus’ spread across the country.

India's cases rise to 28

Sixteen Italian nationals in India have tested positive for coronavirus, the country's health minister said on Wednesday, as the total number of cases in the country rose sharply to 28.

An Italian had tested positive for the virus in the western desert state of Rajasthan, a health official said on Monday.

In this handout photo taken on March 3, 2020 and released by Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) quarantine facility, Chhawla, on March 4, 2020, Italian tourists interact with medical staff and fill up forms after being put in preventive isolation at ITBP quarantine facility in Chhawla in New Delhi. (Handout / Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) / AFP)

South Korea reports 516 new cases, Moon cancels trip

The country announced a stimulus package of 11.7 trillion won (US$9.8 billion) on Wednesday to cushion the impact of the outbreak

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday canceled his planned trip to the UAE, Egypt and Turkey in mid-March, over coronavirus, according to the presidential Blue House.

The country reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the infection tally to 5,621, with at least 32 deaths. 

In Daegu, the city at the center of the worst outbreak outside China, 2,300 people were waiting to be admitted to hospitals and temporary medical facilities.

The country announced a stimulus package of 11.7 trillion won (US$9.8 billion) on Wednesday to cushion the impact of the outbreak.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the supplementary budget, subject to parliamentary approval, will channel money to the health system, child care, and outdoor markets.

“As we understand that the economy is in a state of emergency, we are putting all our policy focus on minimizing the economic fallout, especially for the vulnerable sectors, small- to medium-sized businesses and self-employed people,” Hong told a news conference.

Moon on Tuesday declared “war” on the virus, apologized for shortages of face masks and promised support for virus-hit small businesses in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

South Korean soldiers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a shopping district in Seoul on March 4, 2020. (JUNG YEON-JE / AFP)

Australian stores ration toilet paper

Australia’s major grocers put strict limits on purchases of toilet paper on Wednesday after a rush of panic buying related to coronavirus fears emptied shelves, as the country recorded its third case of local transmission of the disease.

The country now has 41 cases of the coronavirus - the bulk of those evacuees from a cruise ship docked in Japan - and just three cases of local transmission, where people who have not left the country were infected.

Woolworths Group Ltd, the country’s biggest grocery chain, restricted sales of the essential product to four packs per shopper, while a local arm of Costco Wholesale Corp limited its bulk buy packs to one per customer.

Even Prime Minister Scott Morrison has weighed in on a purchasing trend that appears to be at odds with stockpiling of long-lasting food like tinned goods in other countries, telling the public he had been assured by the major grocers they could meet any spike in demand.

Meanwhile, travellers from Iran to Australia have been told to self-isolate in their homes due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Shoppers wearing face masks and gloves shop at the Palladium Shopping Center, in northern Tehran, Iran, March 3, 2020. (VAHID SALEMI/AP)

Iran toll hits 92, Friday prayers canceled

The coronavirus has infected 2,922 people across Iran, 92 of whom have died, said the health authorities. A total of 552 people have recovered and left hospital.

Iran has cancelled this week's Friday prayers in major cities across the country, including Tehran, amid novel coronavirus outbreak, official IRNA news agency reported Wednesday   

Iran's Supreme Council of Economic Coordination has made decisions to assist the country's small businesses as the outbreak of COVID-19 has partially damaged Iran's economy.

Measures announced include a temporary ease on tax payments, customs debts and bank arrears of the micro business sectors.

Iran cancelled this week's Friday prayers in major cities across the country, including Tehran, amid novel coronavirus outbreak, official IRNA news agency reported Wednesday.   

Meanwhile, Armenia has temporarily closed its trade and passenger borders with Iran over the COVID-19 outbreak in there.

The exchange of goods between Iran and Armenia as well as travels to Yerevan, Armenia's capital, has stopped from March 3 and will last three weeks,  the official IRNA news agency reported Wednesday.

Vietnam lifts lockdown

Vietnam's northern province of Vinh Phuc, which reported 11 out of the 16 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection in the country, on Wednesday lifted a 20-day lockdown on one of its communes that had reported a cluster outbreak, Vietnam News Agency reported.

The lockdown took effect on Son Loi commune in Binh Xuyen district of Vinh Phuc, a province of about 1.15 million people located some 60 km from Vietnam's capital city of Hanoi, from Feb 13, after which Vietnam has confirmed no new case of infection.

Thailand considers quarantine rule

Thailand’s prime minister and health officials are discussing whether to impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine on people arriving from countries deemed high risk for infection.

Baghdad not confirming Iraq's first virus death

Iraq’s Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it was not clear whether a death reported as Iraq’s first coronavirus death had in fact been from the new virus.

A local health department said earlier on Wednesday that an elderly man in the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniya had succumbed to the disease.

Iraq has so far has recorded around 30 cases of the new coronavirus: one Iranian student who has since been sent home, plus Iraqis who had all visited Iran recently.

Saudi Arabia expands curbs on religious pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting a non-compulsory religious pilgrimage for its citizens and residents in response to the coronavirus, state-run news agency SPA said on Wednesday.

The rare step by the kingdom, which hosts Sunni Islam’s holiest sites, expands on restrictions introduced last week for Muslim pilgrims from abroad making the same religious trips and limiting the entry of tourists. The latest measures concern the Umrah pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca and visits to a site in Medina.

Tajikistan asks Muslims to pray at home

The government of mostly Muslim Tajikistan on Wednesday asked its citizens to avoid going to mosques for Friday prayers as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, though the Central Asian nation has not reported any cases so far.

A spokesman for the state committee on religious affairs wrote on Facebook that there was no outright ban on mosque attendance, but such a measure was on the table after several imams asked for it.

READ MORE: Japan confirms at least 15 new cases; India sees 2 new cases

Kazakhstan shuts Caspian ports

Kazakhstan has closed its Caspian Sea ports of Aktau and Kuryk to ships carrying passengers from Iran and Azerbaijan to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Central Asian nation’s government said on Wednesday. 

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