May 2020


Month in brief

China says no to probe

China has rejected calls by the US, Australia and other nations for an investigation into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, including Beijing’s early handling of the outbreak. Washington and several of its allies have accused China of failing to take adequate measures against the COVID-19 threat – which has killed over 165,000 people worldwide – in the weeks after it was first detected in the city of Wuhan late last year. But a spokesman from the Chinese foreign ministry said the accusations disrespected ‘the Chinese people’s tremendous efforts and sacrifices’ in flighting the contagion.

Pay cut for PM

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern, along with ministers in her government and public service chief executives, is to take a 20 per cent pay cut for the next six months, in light of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s offices, schools and non-essential services have been closed for the last month and economic activity is at a standstill as the country undertakes one of the strictest lockdowns globally – though the country will soon move to a lower level of restrictions.

Facebook fights for slice of e-payment pie

Facebook is in discussions to get a share in Indonesia’s booming e-payment business, whose revenue is expected to grow nine-fold in the next five years in the country of 270 million people. The social media giant has approached existing digital payment companies to tie-up with and compete with major rivals including local players SoftBank-backed OVO and rival GoPay, owned by Jakarta-based ride hailing firm Gojek and backed by, among others, Google and China’s Tencent.

Mourners risk COVID spread

Bangladesh intensified a clampdown on seven villages after tens of thousands attended the funeral of a popular local cleric, despite a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus. The huge gathering of largely unmasked mourners in Brahmanbaria district, about 60 km east of the capital Dhaka, raised fears about the potential for a spike in infections in a country of 160 million people with poor medical infrastructure.

Restrictions eased in South Korea

Many South Koreans are returning to work and other activities as the country relaxes social distancing rules amid a continued downturn in coronavirus cases A growing number of companies have ended or eased work-from-home policies in recent weeks, though many are still limiting travel and face-to-face meetings. Visitors have been flocking to outdoor spaces, while shopping malls and restaurants are slowly returning to normal.

Celebrations amid the crisis

The people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala welcomed in the traditional new year on April 14 wearing protective masks as they prepared for a longer lockdown to battle the coronavirus pandemic. As they issued happy new year and Vishu greetings, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced an extension to the three-week nationwide lockdown that started on March 24 by another 19 days, which will take it up to May 3.

Fines for fake news

A new ruling took effect in Vietnam on April 15, introducing fines for the dissemination of’ ‘fake news’ or rumours on social media, amid the rapid spread of online comments about the coronavirus in the South-east Asian country. The first COVID-19 cases were detected in Vietnam this January, though the health ministry has reported no deaths among the 267 infections so far, numbers well below those seen in some other Asian countries. Local authorities have already fined hundreds of people for posting what they described as ‘fake news’ about the virus.

Lovelorn under lockdown

An Australian who repeatedly broke coronavirus quarantine, reportedly to visit his girlfriend, has been jailed for a month – the first person imprisoned under the country’s lockdown laws. Jonathan David, 35, was arrested in April after slipping out of mandatory quarantine through a fire escape at a Perth hotel, Western Australia Police said in a statement. David told Perth’s Magistrates Court that he first flouted the law to get food, but hours later broke quarantine again because he missed his girlfriend.
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