Asian nations are ramping up efforts to fight the deadly novel coronavirus, which has upended societies and sparked economic turmoil as it spreads around the world.
Chances grow of Olympic delay
After weeks insisting the Tokyo Olympics would begin in July, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said postponing the Games may become “inevitable”.
It came as Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic committees announced they would not send teams to the Games if they are held this summer, and Australia’s Olympic committee told athletes to prepare for them to take place in 2021.
First cases in Myanmar
After weeks claiming that Myanmar’s healthy “lifestyle and diet” was protecting it from the pandemic, authorities in Yangon announced its first cases of the novel coronavirus.
The health ministry confirmed that a 36-year-old man travelling back from the United States and a 26-year-old man returning from Britain had both tested positive.
India grounds domestic flights
India will ground all domestic passenger flights from Wednesday to combat the spread of the virus, having already banned incoming international arrivals and sealed most of its land borders.
Domestic Indian carriers flew some 144 million passengers last year.
Sea and river ports were also shut late Monday, meaning that all incoming passenger traffic into India was now banned. And Indian Railways — which normally carries more than 20 million passengers daily — cancelled all services except suburban and goods trains.
Neighbouring Nepal will enforce a week-long lockdown starting Tuesday, and “restrict outdoor movement of individuals except for buying medicine and emergency activities,” said a government spokesman.
Pakistan approves military deployment
Pakistan authorised the army to help the government across the country with logistics and transporting supplies, if needed, as well as help enforce any eventual curfew as the crisis worsens.
The orders came as health authorities confirmed 805 cases of coronavirus so far, including six deaths.
Hong Kong bans non-residents
The financial hub will bar entry for all non-residents from midnight Tuesday into Wednesday, its leader said, as it tries to halt a recent spike in virus infections from people returning from abroad. It will also ban transit at the airport.
It came a day after rival financial centre Singapore also barred all short-term visitors, except for citizens, permanent residents and some work permit holders.
Hong Kong said bars and restaurants could no longer serve alcohol.
Singapore Airlines warns of ‘greatest challenge’
Singapore’s flag carrier, one of Asia’s leading airlines, warned it was facing the “greatest challenge” in its existence as it grounded almost all its planes until the end of April.
The airline will also implement salary cuts as well as a voluntary unpaid leave scheme.
Thailand labour exodus
Tens of thousands of migrant labourers from Laos and Myanmar flooded bus stations and border crossings in Thailand, defying requests to stay put to prevent exporting infections.
Laos and Myanmar — two of Southeast Asia’s least developed countries — both claim they have no cases of COVID-19. Thailand has reported 721 infections.
And in Cambodia, 31 French nationals from a tour group tested positive for the coronavirus and were placed under quarantine in a hotel. Cambodia has reported 87 COVID-19 cases including the tourists.
Indonesia converts Games village to hospital
Indonesia, which has the highest death toll from the pandemic in Southeast Asia at 48, has converted an athlete’s village built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency hospital for coronavirus patients.
The facility in the capital Jakarta, where a state of emergency has been declared, opens Monday with initial capacity for 3,000 patients in the 10-tower complex.