Asia virus latest: World Bank poverty warning, China factory turnaround

Singapore (AFP) –


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

- Millions more could fall into poverty in Asia -

The pandemic could drive 11 million more people in East Asia into poverty under a negative outlook, which involves a severe economic contraction followed by a sluggish recovery, the World Bank warned in a new report.

Even in the best case, marked by a sharp slowdown followed by a strong recovery, 24 million fewer people in the region will escape poverty, the report said.

- Chinese factories grind back to life -

Chinese factory activity saw surprise growth in March as businesses grind back to work following a lengthy shutdown but analysts said the economy faces a challenging recovery as external demand is devastated by the coronavirus, while the World Bank warned growth could screech to a halt.

China is slowly returning to life after months of tough restrictions aimed at containing the deadly COVID-19, which put millions of people into virtual house arrest and brought economic activity to a near standstill.

- Australia introduces tough penalties -

Harsh penalties for violating virus-linked restrictions have been introduced in Australia, with New South Wales state bringing in fines of up to Aus$11,000 (US$6,800) and six months' jail for people who leave their home without a "reasonable excuse", or gather in groups larger than two.

At least a dozen people have already received smaller fines for flouting the rules, including some who breached mandatory self-isolation or quarantine periods.

- Japan tightens travel advice -

Japan is now advising its citizens to avoid travelling to 73 countries and regions worldwide in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

People are also being advised to avoid non-essential travel to all other parts of the world, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters.

- Markets bounce back -

Asian equities rose strongly following another rally on Wall Street, while oil bounced, with traders welcoming a surprise jump in Chinese factory activity, though analysts cautioned that the road ahead remained rocky for the global economy.

Global markets have suffered historic falls in recent weeks as the virus batters economies worldwide.

- First death in Myanmar -

Myanmar reported its first death from the virus, a 69-year-old man who had returned to the country in mid-March after receiving cancer treatment in Australia.

The country of 54 million, which has one of the region's most under-developed healthcare systems, only confirmed its first case last week.

- China delays college entrance exams -

China is postponing its notoriously difficult college entrance tests, following months of uncertainty due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The "gaokao" examinations are being delayed by a month and will now take place from July 7 to 8 this year, said education authorities.