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Friday, March 27, 2020, 23:18
Malaysia unveils US$58-billion stimulus to cushion virus blow
By Agencies
Friday, March 27, 2020, 23:18 By Agencies

A worker sprays disinfectant at a market, which is closed during the movement control order due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Kajang, outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 26, 2020. (PHOTO / AP)

TOKYO / DUBAI / SYDNEY / SINGAPORE / KUALA LUMPUR /  KUWAIT CITY - Malaysia will launch a stimulus package worth 250 billion ringgit (US$58.28 billion) to counter the impact of a coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday.

About 128 billion ringgit will be spent on public welfare measures, with 100 billion used to support businesses, Muhyiddin added.

Separately, the country has organized chartered flights to fly out 111 of its citizens stranded in Cambodia after Southeast Asian nation sealed borders and canceled flights.

On Friday, the country reported 130 new coronavirus cases on Friday and a total of 2,161 infections. The number of deaths from the virus outbreak rose to 26, the health ministry said.


Australia is introducing enforced quarantine by midnight on Saturday for citizens returning home from overseas and will deploy armed forces to ensure people already subjected to self-isolation measures are complying.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said everyone arriving by plane would be detained in a hotel in the city of their arrival for two weeks, toughening up the previous self-isolation requirements.

The Australian Defence Force would also be deployed to help enforce the self-isolation rules, Morrison said.

The fight against the coronavirus in Australia is being hampered by mixed messages from the national and state governments, leaving the public confused, as the prime minister’s incremental approach contrasts with a state push to ‘go hard, go fast’.

The number of coronavirus cases in Australia approached 3,000 from less than 100 at the start of March, raising fears about a wider spread in the community. The country has reported 13 deaths from the pandemic so far.


Japan's health ministry and local governments said that 62 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed nationwide on Friday as of 6:30 pm local time, with 40 of them being in Tokyo as the capital approaches a "soft" lockdown this weekend.

The total number of infections in Japan has now risen to 1,463 cases, according to the latest figures.

The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stands at a total of 59 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 Japanese government said on Friday there was no need now to declare a state of emergency, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the previous day described the coronavirus as a “national crisis” following a surge of cases in Tokyo.

Abe said on Friday a lockdown of Tokyo would have a severe impact on the economy given its huge population and the key role it plays as the center of the country.

“For now, I don’t think we need to call a state of emergency. But it’s very important to respond appropriately since the Tokyo metropolitan area has a huge population,” Abe told parliament.

Separately, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea will remain closed at least until April 19, the operator of the theme parks said on Friday, again extending a temporary closure that began on Feb. 29 due to the coronavirus outbreak.


Afghanistan will release at least 10,000 prisoners over the age of 55 in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, officials said on Thursday.

Those released will not include members of Islamist militant groups the Taliban or Islamic State, and the process will be completed within 10 days, said two government officials.

Afghanistan has reported 91 cases of coronavirus and three deaths. The country’s western Herat province has recorded at least 54 of the 75 total cases reported in the last week. 

ALSO READ: Abe calls virus a 'national crisis', S'pore to tap reserves for US$30b

People gather on a bridge to view cherry blossoms, March 26, 2020, in Tokyo. (PHOTO / AP)


The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh rose to 48 on Friday.

Of the four new patients, two are doctors who treated COVID-19 infected patients.

Five deaths have so far been recorded in Bangladesh while 11 patients have recovered. 


Cambodia's Ministry of Health (MoH) said on Thursday that two more persons tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the kingdom to 98.

The two new patients are Indonesian men, the ministry said in a statement, adding that they traveled to Siem Reap province from Bangkok, Thailand.


Fiji announced on Friday a nationwide curfew from next Monday night as part of its efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Making the announcement in parliament, Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said that the curfew from 10pm to 5am local time every day will be in force as part of the preventative measures over COVID-19.

Currently, there are five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Fiji.


India's central bank slashed interest rates in an emergency move on Friday to counter the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic after the federal government locked down the country in order to slow the spread of infections across the region.

India's western state of Maharashtra will be releasing about 11,000 prisoners to reduce overcrowding in prisons in a bid to curb the risk of COVID-19 outbreak, state home minister Anil Deshmukh has said.

The country reoported 724 COVID-19 infections and 17 deaths so far. 


Indonesia’s chief security minister Mahfud MD said on Friday the national government would allow regional authorities to impose lockdowns to control the coronavirus, in a major shift in strategy after previously resisting tougher restrictions.

The security chief also said the government was mulling a plan to ban “mudik” - the practice that sees millions of Indonesians leave towns and cities for their native villages at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in May.

The change of tack came after Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, announced on Friday its biggest one-day surge in coronavirus cases, up 153 to 1,046.

As many as 46 patients have recovered from the pneumonia-causing COVID-19, according to the government's spokesman for the all coronavirus-related matters Achmad Yurianto.


ran’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic rose to 2,378 on Friday, with 144 people dying in the past 24 hours, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.

The total number of confirmed cases of the disease increased by 2,926 to 32,332, he told state TV, adding that 2,893 of the patients are in a critical condition.

Iran on Thursday announced the implementation of a social distancing plan for one week starting from Friday, official IRNA news agency reported.

The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has approved loans worth US$5 billion to be provided to the businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Press TV reported Thursday.

The loans will be offered at an interest rate of 12 percent with a repayment period of two years, CBI Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati was quoted as saying.


Israel will deploy its army to assist police on street patrols to enforce a lockdown against the coronavirus epidemic, the military said on Friday.

About 500 troops will join police squadrons from Sunday to help “in patrolling, isolating and securing certain areas, blocking routes and additional similar assignments”, the military said in a statement.

A total of 324 people in Israel tested positive for the COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,693, the Israeli Ministry of Health said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Israel Employment Service said that the state's unemployment rate jumped from 4 percent to 21.2 percent since the beginning of March due to the pandemic.


Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Thursday said the government will apply stricter penalties on violators of a curfew the country had imposed on March 21 to combat the novel coronavirus.

He said his government only allowed the citizens to go out on certain hours to buy their basic needs, but the curfew is still on.

Violating motorists will be fined up to US$800, he added.

Jordan confirmed on Thursday 40 new cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the total number in the country to 212, according to the health minister.

READ MORE: Thailand bans foreigners' entry, Philippines declares emergency

A paramedic from the Palestinian Ministry of Health checks the body temperature of a Palestinian laborer after exiting an Israeli army checkpoint, background, on his way home at the end of a day work in Israel, in the bordering West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, March 25, 2020. (PHOTO / AP)


Kazakhstan on Friday ordered most companies in its capital Nur-Sultan and biggest city Almaty to suspend work between March 30 and April 5, the government said, as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Central Asian nation has confirmed 124 coronavirus cases, most of them in the two largest cities, and reported its first death this week.


Lebanon's number of COVID-19 infections increased on Friday by 23 cases to 391 while the death toll went up to seven, the Health Ministry reported in a statement. 

The government extended the nationwide lockdown for two additional weeks until April 12 in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus. 

Moreover, security forces will take stricter measures preventing people from leaving their houses except in emergency situations.

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti announced on Thursday that Lebanon will send airplanes after two weeks to bring back the Lebanese citizens who are willing to return home.


Mauritius reported 39 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total to 81, announced by Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth at a press conference.

So far, two deaths have been reported, said Jugnauth.


Two more imported cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Myanmar early Friday, bringing the total of infection cases of this disease in the country to five, said a release from the Health and Sports Ministry.

All five cases are recent arrivals from abroad and no local case is reported so far in Myanmar. 

New Zealand 

New Zealand on Friday confirmed 76 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 368.

Among the new infections, seven were members of the New Zealand Defense Force. 

Overseas travel is still the main reason for new infections, but there's evidence of community transmission, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.

Friday's is the second day of New Zealand's national lockdown. 


Ten new infections of the novel coronavirus were detected in Oman, bringing the total number of cases registered in the country to 109, the health ministry announced on Thursday.

"All 10 cases are citizens of Oman," the ministry said in a statement. Twenty-three out of the total infections have recovered, it added. 


Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye on Thursday warned that Palestine is planning for "worse days ahead," amid the increase of COVID-19 cases in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Earlier on Thursday, the Palestinian government's spokesperson Ibrahim Milhem announced that 13 new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in Biddo, bringing the total number in Palestine to 86.


Singapore is prepared to extend more support for the economy hit by a coronavirus pandemic, the city-state's prime minister said on Friday, a day after it unveiled new measures worth more than US$30 billion to help businesses and households.

The city-state this week announced more stringent social distancing measures such as shutting bars, limiting gatherings to up to 10 people outside work and school as well as a ban on large events.

Under updates to its powerful infectious diseases law, anyone who intentionally sits less than 1 meter away from another person in a public place or on a fixed seat demarcated as not to be occupied, or who stands in a queue less than a meter away from another, will be guilty of an offence.

Offenders can be fined up to S$10,000 (US$6,990), jailed for up to six months, or both.

The rules, in place until April 30, can be applied to individuals and businesses.

Singapore’s number of coronavirus cases rose by 52 to 683 infections on Thursday, and two people have died.

A security guard with a face mask stands outside a pharmacy in Sydney on March 27, 2020. The number of confirmed covid-19 cases in Australia passed the 3,000 mark on March 27, with the vast majority of infections in major east coast cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. (SAEED KHAN / AFP)

South Korea

Authorities in South Korea pleaded with residents on Friday to stay indoors and avoid large gatherings as new coronavirus cases hovered close to 100 per day, including multiple people working on an American military base in the country.

South Korea reported 91 new coronavirus cases on Friday, taking the national tally to 9,332, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

A recent surge in imported cases has prompted authorities to toughen entry rules for travellers from Europe and the United States.

Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan President's Office on Thursday said it has declared a new five-day "work from home" period from March 30 to April 3, in order to prevent the public from leaving their homes amidst a COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier, the government has declared a "work from home" week from March 20 to March 27 but an islandwide curfew was declared on March 20 which still remains in place as the COVID-19 cases rose to 104 on Thursday.


The Thai government on Friday ordered the closing down of more public facilities and businesses in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, and extended existing closures until the end of April.

Thailand reported 91 new coronavirus cases and 1 fatality, bringing the total to 1,136 cases and 5 deaths, a health official said on Friday.

The latest death was of a patient in Narathiwat province bordering Malaysia, the health official said.

Thai police have established 359 checkpoints throughout the kingdom to conduct health screening and intercept smuggling of controlled goods in an attempt to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Philippines

The chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Felimon Santos Jr. has tested positive for the COVID-19, while Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana would undergo self-quarantine after having contact with Santos.

AFP said in a statement Friday that Santos is "well and in good health condition" but will be closely monitored by military physicians from a military hospital.

It said Santos may have contracted the virus from a Navy officer who had a travel history to Jordan, and he would be on strict home quarantine for 14 days, from March 27 to April 10.

Defense Secretary Lorenzana, who said he was exposed to Santos at least twice recently, has decided to self-isolate beginning Friday.

On Friday, the country has recorded nine new coronavirus deaths and 96 new infections, bringing the total to 54 and 803 respectively. 

A volunteer in a protective suit sprays disinfectant outside the offices of a local police station to help curb the spread of coronavirus in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 23, 2020. (PHOTO / AP)


Turkey could order the public to stay at home if coronavirus infections continue to spread, the government said on Thursday as it clamped down further on medical equipment leaving the country.

The government announced such a measure for people older than 65 over the weekend, but not for the general public as some other countries have done.

The respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus has killed 75 people in Turkey after cases surged in two weeks to 3,629.


The United Arab Emirates directed most of the public and private sectors to have the majority of staff work from home, and imposed overnight curfews as a temporary measure this weekend for a nationwide disinfection to combat the coronavirus.

The regional business hub, which has confirmed 333 cases of the virus and two deaths, has not announced an official curfew or work suspension but has increasingly clamped down on movement.


Uzbekistan locked down more cities and districts on Friday, and announced large bonus payments for medical workers, in its effort to slow the spread of a coronavirus, as it reported the country’s first death and the number of cases climbed to 83.

A 72-year old man in the city of Namangan died on Friday morning, having suffered from a host of other diseases in addition to the coronavirus, the healthcare ministry said.


Vietnam is aiming to keep the number of coronavirus cases in the country under 1,000, the government said, as the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country passed 150 on Friday.

“We have been able to contain epicentres, and even potential epicentres ... and we are determined to keep the number of COVID-19 cases from reaching 1,000,” deputy prime minister Vu Duc Dam said in a statement.

Vietnam will limit domestic flights and stop public gatherings for two weeks from Saturday in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the government said in a statement on Friday.

Indoor gatherings of more than 20 people and outdoor gatherings of 10 people or more will be banned, the government said, citing an order signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Vietnam has found 153 coronavirus cases but has had no reported deaths, according to the health ministry. More than 57,000 people are in quarantine.

The nation is aiming to keep the number of coronavirus cases in the country under 1,000, the government said, as the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country passed 150 on Friday.


Jordan confirmed on Thursday 40 new cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the total number in the country to 212, according to the health minister.



Kuwait reported 17 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 225, the Health Ministry announced in a statement Friday.

Out of the 225 cases, 57 have recovered and 168 are receiving treatment including 11 still in the ICU, the statement noted.

The Kuwaiti government has decided to impose a nationwide curfew to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

On March 13, Kuwait suspended all commercial flights. The government has also closed stores, malls and barbershops.  

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