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Asia virus latest: Modi apologizes, Australia limits gatherings

MUMBAI: Vegetable vendors set up their stalls maintaining social distance at an open field during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Mumbai yesterday. – AFP

HONG KONG: Here are the latest developments from Asia related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:
Modi asks Indians for forgiveness
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologized to citizens for the sweeping 21-day lockdown that has brought the country of 1.3 billion people to a halt, leaving many migrant workers jobless and penniless. “I believe that you will forgive me… I had to take some decisions which have inconvenienced you in various ways, especially my poor brothers and sisters,” he said Sunday in a weekly radio address, arguing there was “no other way” to fight the virus.

Meanwhile Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to rural migrants not to go home after a massive exodus began from cities, with many workers making the long journeys on foot. “Stay where you are. Because there is a risk of corona spreading in such a big crowd,” he tweeted. The government ordered all of India’s states and territories to seal their borders to reduce the movement of people, and said funds were available within each state to arrange food and shelter for migrants at their places of work.

Singapore cancels man’s passport
Singapore cancelled the passport of a citizen who breached his mandatory quarantine period, the latest example of the city-state’s strict enforcement of social distancing measures. The 53-year-old man had been ordered to stay at home for 14 days after returning to Singapore from neighboring Indonesia, a rule he then broke by making a further trip over the border. Singapore, which has imposed tough measures to slow the spread of the virus – including the threat of six months in jail for people who intentionally stand close to someone else – reported its third COVID-19 death on Sunday.

Australia limits gatherings
Gatherings will be restricted to just two people in Australia from Monday – down from the current limit of 10 – and playgrounds, outdoor gyms and skateparks will be closed across the country. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all over-70s as well as indigenous people over 50, who are more susceptible to diseases, are now being strongly advised to self-isolate at home. This came as hundreds of cruise ship passengers were due to board flights for Germany after spending days stranded at sea off the Western Australian coast in a stand-off with authorities. Australia has recorded almost 4,000 cases of COVID-19, with the death toll reaching 16 on Sunday. Meanwhile New Zealand reported its first novel coronavirus death.

Australia domestic violence
Australia announced a nearly US$100 million boost in funding to tackle domestic violence after support services reported a spike in coronavirus-related family abuse. Associations around the world that help victims of domestic violence have sounded the alarm over fears of an increase in cases, as the stress caused by social isolation exacerbates tensions.

China reports imported cases
China reported 45 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, all but one of them imported from abroad. That compares with 54 cases the previous day, all imported. After taking draconian steps to bring the virus spread under control domestically, China is now doing the same to prevent imported infections. It announced this week it would drastically reduce the number of international flights into the country and banned foreigners from entering beginning Saturday.

Sri Lanka extends ban on arrivals
Sri Lanka on Sunday said it was extending a ban on all arriving airline passengers by a further week, until April 7. The main airport, however, remains open for people leaving the country. The island nation reported its first virus death on Saturday night.

Bangladesh reports no new cases
Bangladesh’s disease control czar Meerjady Sabrina Flora told reporters on Sunday that no-one had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. It is the second consecutive day that zero virus cases have been reported in the country, where 48 people have tested positive so far, with five deaths.

Jump in Philippine infections
The Philippines on Sunday announced 343 new cases of the virus, its biggest one-day increase so far as the country ramps up testing capacity. The number brings total cases in the Philippines to 1,418, the nation’s health department said, with 71 deaths including three new fatalities. Authorities said the jump was caused by the increased capacity for testing after more kits arrived from abroad.- AFP

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