In today’s bulletin: Singapore to close most workplaces, Coronavirus cases hit one million globally, China prepares for a second wave, Modi’s candlelight vigil, global economies tank, 15,000 crew stuck on cruise ships off Australia and more…
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SINGAPORE TO CLOSE MOST WORKPLACES, CHINA BRACES FOR SECOND WAVE
Singapore is to close most workplaces for a month from next Tuesday (April 7) and all schools will move to full home-based learning a day later, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced today.
This is to put in place a “circuit breaker” to pre-empt escalating coronavirus infections, with the country routinely seeing more than 50 new cases daily over the past two weeks.
The move comes as the world grapples with over one million Covid-19 infections.
In Wuhan, the birthplace of the coronavirus, observers were cautioning about a rebound. As the province prepares to ease travel restrictions on April 8, a top expert urged the city’s 11 million residents to stay indoors and maintain strict self-protection measures.
Beijing also called for vigilance ahead of a possible second wave. Bracing for the worst, China is gradually re-introducing restrictions in some regions, closing facilities that just recently reopened. Around 600,000 residents of a county in Henan province are on lockdown after the discovery of new cases.
Go deeper: The tragedy of two failing superpowers
CAN THE DEVELOPING WORLD COPE? MODI HOPES SO, WITH A CANDLE
India’s vast slums and extremely dense population make the perfect breeding ground for any virus, and as the country continues to see its coronavirus numbers climb, the lack of medical facilities in the country is a grim reality most Indians will have to endure through the pandemic.
Likely with this in mind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked citizens to light candles to “challenge the darkness” of the coronavirus as he implored people to follow social distancing measures which are impossible for most of the country’s poor to implement.
India’s situation applies to much of the developing world. It has only 0.5 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, compared to China’s 4.3 and South Korea’s 12.3. Also, India has failed to roll-out adequate testing – only 48,000 tests have been conducted in a nation of 1.3 billion. This means the actual toll could be far higher than the 2,543 cases announced today.
Most developing countries’ number of beds per 1,000 hovers around the 1 mark, while more developed nations average around 2.5 beds per 1,000, according to the World Bank.
MALAYSIA’S RULING PERIKATAN ALLIANCE TIGHTENS GRIP ON GOVT AGENCIES
The month-old Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has ordered a swathe of changes at various state agencies in recent weeks, dumping those appointed during the 21 months its predecessor Pakatan Harapan (PH) was in charge, Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh reports.
This comes as the Muhyiddin Yassin-led alliance fights not just the coronavirus crisis, but also for political control having come to power after a week-long saga at the end of February when the outbreak was still in its infancy.
Several sources familiar with these changes told The Straits Times that they were necessary to appease supporters across a wide range of political bases whose factions were not rewarded with ministerial positions. The PN government has taken flak for having 70 as ministers or deputies, far more than the 55 under PH.
GLOBAL ECONOMIES SLUMP, BANK PREDICTS WORST US NUMBERS SINCE 1946
The US economy, like many others, is taking a huge hit as the coronavirus shuts down businesses and keeps spenders at home. Morgan Stanley thinks the US economy will shrink at its fastest rate since 1946 and see unemployment hit 15 per cent. This could translate into a massive blow to China, the US’ largest trade partner.
How is Asia faring? Singapore’s February retail sales sank nearly 9 per cent – the steepest fall in 12 years, while the country’s richest man made US$3.5 billion this year as his ventilator making company’s shares surged by 40 per cent.
MORE THAN 15,000 CREW STUCK ON A DOZEN CRUISE SHIPS OFF AUSTRALIA TOLD TO GO HOME
More than 15,000 crew are stuck on a dozen cruise ships moored off Australia as they wait for news of where they can go. Fearing the spread of coronavirus, the Australian authorities told the ships, some of them virus-stricken, to sail to the ports where they are registered.
With many ships registered in tax-convenient places like the Bahamas or Panama, which have scant medical resources to deal with the pandemic, this option isn’t ideal.
Ships all around the world are battling to find safe ports of call, and authorities are accusing the cruise industry of being reckless during the early stages of the outbreak.
Australian pundits have dubbed the vessels “Death Ships” and one nervous state leader called for the navy to intercept a cruise ship full of German tourists.
IN OTHER NEWS
SOUTH KOREAN POLITICIANS GET CREATIVE IN CAMPAIGNING AHEAD OF ELECTIONS: Campaigning for the upcoming general election has kicked off in South Korea, with some candidates riding trucks, electric scooters, and even a horse around town to attract attention, as well as help with disinfection works to curb the spread of the coronavirus which has infected nearly 10,000 people.
Many candidates are also turning to social media to canvass for support as voters stay at home and avoid going out during the outbreak.
TAIWANESE TREE CLIMBER EMBRACING WOMEN WITH A HEAD FOR HEIGHTS: At a campground in central Taiwan, a team of women are using ropes to shimmy up a towering seven storey tall Chinaberry tree, fighting their fear of heights and reconnecting with nature.
Tree climbing remains somewhat niche in Taiwan but a growing number of women are embracing the challenge thanks to the island’s first international certified female climber arborist.
SOUTH KOREA TROOP-FUNDING DISPUTE UNRESOLVED: A US official said troop funding talks with South Korea are continuing despite reports out of Seoul that a deal was near to end the impasse that has led to the unprecedented furlough of thousands of civilian Korean workers at American bases.
The Trump administration official who asked not to be identified said on Thursday (April 2) that the US believes South Korea can and should pay more to support the some 28,000 American service personnel in the country.
That’s it for today, thanks for reading and see you next week.