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Saturday, April 1, 2023

India locks down 1.3 billion people as Asia braces for virus outbreak

Asian states have braced themselves up to fight the corona pandemic. India has imposed total lockdown while Singapore has witnessed unprecedented month-long shutdown. Pakistan has suspended an official over virus selfie. Many countries like Australia has deployed army. Thai has announced state of emergency. Businesses in South Korea and Bangladesh has asked for help from govts. On the other hand, China is lifting travel restrictions from Hubei province.

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Here are the latest developments from Asia related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

India to impose total lockdown

India’s 1.3 billion people will go under “total lockdown” for 21 days to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic from midnight Tuesday (1830 GMT).

“To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family… every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the world’s second-most-populous nation.

China to lift Hubei travel curbs

China’s central Hubei province, where the deadly coronavirus first emerged late last year, is to lift travel curbs after two months under lockdown, officials said.

Healthy residents will be allowed to leave the province from midnight Tuesday, while Wuhan, the initial epicentre of the outbreak, will lift restrictions from April 8.

Month-long Singapore shutdown

Singapore will begin a series of shutdowns, in place until at least April 30.

From Thursday, bars and other entertainment venues such as night clubs, theatres and cinemas will be closed, while mass gatherings — including conferences, exhibitions and sporting events — must be postponed or cancelled.

Religious gatherings will be suspended and socialising outside of school and work must be limited to 10 people.

Australia to deploy army, ban BBQs

Australia’s military will deploy to help set up virus checkpoints on routes into the remote Northern Territory, as the region goes into lockdown.

The territory — home to a sizeable Aboriginal population, and some of Australia’s most pristine outback — was effectively closed to non-essential travel from Tuesday afternoon.

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The country also banned backyard barbecues, games of football in the park and all foreign travel, while weddings will be limited to five people and funerals to 10, as almost all mass gatherings were outlawed.

Philippines president gets extra powers

The country’s Congress gave President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping powers to fight the virus, including to take over private buildings and vehicles to house or transport the sick, health personnel, medical supplies and equipment.

Some 55 million people in the Philippines, which has reported 552 infections and 35 deaths, have been ordered to stay at home to halt the spread of the virus.

Thai state of emergency; Laos, Timor cases

A state of emergency will come into force in the kingdom from Thursday after a surge in cases, the prime minister said, allowing authorities to ban people from leaving their homes.

Neighbouring Laos, one of Southeast Asia’s poorest nations with an under-developed healthcare system, confirmed its first cases in two people working in tourism.

East Timor, an impoverished, half-island nation next to the vast Indonesian archipelago, reported its first case.

South Korea help for businesses

South Korea doubled its business aid package to 100 trillion won ($80 billion), with President Moon Jae-in saying it would help “not only self-employed and small-to-medium size companies, but also major industries”.

At one point South Korea was the country hardest-hit by the virus outside China, but widespread testing and quarantine efforts have seen new cases fall below 100 a day.

Bangladesh garment sector crisis

The impoverished country’s garment sector is facing its worst crisis in decades after Western retailers such as H&M, Walmart and Tesco cancelled orders worth over $2 billion, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Macau imposes border controls

The former Portuguese colony followed neighbouring Hong Kong in tightening border controls, with foreigners banned from entry, some residents barred and restrictions placed on others.

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The gambling hub has been hit hard by the outbreak, with the casino industry suffering its worst monthly downturn on record in February.

Pakistan suspends official over virus selfie

Pakistan has suspended six civil servants after they posed for a selfie with a coronavirus patient in a quarantine centre, an official said.

The selfie — widely shared on social media — pictured a group of men around the apparent patient, several of them smiling broadly and none wearing face masks.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk