Asia virus latest: Australia raids cruise ship; Taiwan demands WHO apology

Singapore (AFP) –


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

- Australian police raid virus-hit cruise ship -

Australian police raided the coronavirus-stricken Ruby Princess cruise ship and seized its black box, as part of a criminal investigation after thousands of passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney and 15 later died of the illness.

Police wearing protective suits and masks boarded the vessel in Port Kembla, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Sydney, on Wednesday night, New South Wales Police said.

- Taiwan demands apology from WHO chief -

Taiwan demanded an apology from the World Health Organization chief after he accused the island's government of leading personal attacks against him and his agency's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Relations between the WHO and Taiwan have worsened considerably since the pandemic began, even as health experts have lauded Taiwan for its response to the virus.

Taiwan used to be able to obtain observer status at the WHO's annual assembly, but diplomatic pressure from Beijing in recent years has pushed the island out of major international bodies.

- Rohingya camps in Bangladesh locked down -

Bangladesh has imposed a "complete lockdown" in Cox's Bazar district -- home to over a million Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar -- to halt the spread of coronavirus, officials said.

Experts have warned that the disease could spread quickly through the cramped, sewage-soaked alleys where the persecuted Muslim minority are housed in canvas and bamboo shacks. No cases have been confirmed in the camps but one infection has been recorded nearby.

- Markets, oil rise -

Asian markets were mostly in positive territory Thursday following another strong day for Wall Street as traders bought into optimism that the coronavirus crisis could be nearing its apex, while crude extended gains on hopes top producers will agree to a massive output cut.

- Tokyo Disney parks extend closures -

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea said they will extend their closures after the Japanese government this week declared a month-long state of emergency to halt the spread of the virus.

The parks, which usually attract more than 30 million visitors each year, had originally hoped to reopen this month.

- Locked-down Chinese city builds temporary hospital -

The Chinese city of Suifenhe in northeastern Heilongjiang province, which has seen an influx of imported coronavirus cases from Russia in recent days, is building a temporary hospital to treat those who have been infected.

The hospital will provide more than 600 beds and is expected to be completed by April 11. The city, on the Russian border, has already placed residents under lockdown and closed the land border.

- Bangkok booze ban -

Shops in the Thai capital are not allowed to sell alcohol for 10 days from Friday, city authorities said, seeking to put a dampener on a raucous festival as the country's virus cases rise.

The Songkran water festival, taking place next week, is a once reverent Buddhist festival which has morphed into a three-day party usually marked by heavy drinking and water fights.

- Australia, New Zealand police halt Easter getaways -

Hundreds of police officers in Australia and New Zealand have been deployed to stop holidaymakers from reaching beaches, campsites and vacation homes over the long Easter weekend, usually one of the most popular travel periods of the year.

"You can't rent a holiday house, you can't rent an Airbnb, you can't camp, you can't caravan, you can't boat, you can't fish," said Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville.

"This needs to be a very different Easter," she added.

- Indonesian ferry passengers abandon ship -

Several passengers flung themselves off an Indonesian ferry over fears some of the crew had contracted coronavirus.

The ferry, which was carrying more than 250 mostly migrant workers on their way home, was travelling from the island of Borneo to Sulawesi island when officials blocked it from docking over health concerns.

In response, five passengers grabbed life jackets, jumped overboard and swam to shore.