Wuhan travel ban lifted after two-month shutdown

Here are the latest developments in Asia related to the coronavirus pandemic:

– Wuhan outbound travel ban ends –

Outbound travel from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first emerged in December, resumed early Wednesday, after a more than two-month ban.

Thousands of travellers flocked to catch departing trains, passenger cars lined up as road blocks were dismantled, and outbound air travel was set to resume.

The further easing of travel restrictions came after China reported no new coronavirus deaths for the first time since it started publishing figures in January.

Cases on the mainland have been dwindling since March, but the country faces a second wave of infections from overseas.

However, there are suspicions — denied by China — that Beijing continues to intentionally under-report the real number of deaths and infections.

China also announced all nationals returning from the US, Italy and Iran will have to provide daily updates on their health to a WeChat app for up to two weeks before their flights or be denied boarding.

– Japan declares state of emergency –

Japan declared a month-long state of emergency over a spike in coronavirus cases, ramping up efforts to contain infections but stopping short of the strict lockdowns seen in other parts of the world.

The move allows governors in seven affected regions including Tokyo to ask people to stay indoors and request that businesses close, but there are no enforcement mechanisms and no penalties for those who fail to comply.

The government has come under mounting pressure to tackle an outbreak that remains small by global standards but has raised concerns among Japanese medical experts, with warnings that health care systems are already overstretched.

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– Stranded Afghans storm home –

Afghans stranded in Pakistan by the virus shutdown stormed a border crossing after the lockdown on the common border was briefly lifted.

Thousands entered Afghanistan without being screened, sparking fears they may introduce more cases of the coronavirus into a war-weary country already overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of migrants returning from hard-hit Iran.

– ‘Pandemic bonds’ –

Indonesia will issue some $27 billion in so-called “Pandemic bonds” to finance efforts to deal with the health crisis and its economic impact.

Factory activity in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy hit a record low, with Japanese automakers Suzuki and Honda becoming the latest firms to announce temporary production suspensions at their plants in the archipelago.

The government has slashed annual growth projections and warned the economy could even contract in a worst-case scenario.

It will spend an extra $25 billion to mitigate the economic impact of the virus. Meanwhile, the rupiah earlier dropped to a near-record low and is one of Asia’s worst-hit currencies.

– Philippines extends quarantine –

The Philippines has extended the home quarantine order covering roughly half its population — around 55 million people.

The lockdown, due to end next week, will be prolonged to April 30 as confirmed infections hit 3,660 with 163 deaths.

Schools, public places and most businesses have been shuttered since mid-March, with residents told to remain at home except for food shopping and medical visits.

– Cambodia cancels public holiday –

The much-anticipated Khmer New Year public holiday next week has been postponed, Cambodia’s strongman premier said, due to coronavirus fears.

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Hun Sen, who in February played down the severity of the virus, urged people to celebrate where they were rather than return to their home provinces.

– Mask up, or make one –

Citizens in Indonesia’s Padang city on Sumatra island face a unique punishment if they go out in public unmasked.

Violators must produce — with the help of an online instructional video should they need it — two cloth masks as a fine, one for themselves and another for a person in need.

The consequences if they can’t produce a mask on the spot were unclear.

– ‘Idiot’ Kiwi minister –

New Zealand’s health minister described himself as “an idiot” for breaking lockdown restrictions, but kept his job coordinating the South Pacific nation’s coronavirus response.

Health Minister David Clark — whose resignation to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was not accepted — revealed he took a 20-kilometre (12-mile) drive to the beach with his family.


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