Asia virus latest: Oil extends rout, US state sues China

Singapore (AFP) –


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

- Oil extends rout -

Brent crude plunged more than 12 percent to below $17 a barrel while US oil erased early gains and fell, as the coronavirus strangles demand and ravages energy markets, while storage facilities approach full capacity.

On another day of volatile trading, US benchmark WTI surged in early Asian deals while Brent also edged up on news that top producers had held talks -- only for prices to suddenly change course.

Australia, meanwhile, said it will take advantage of record low oil prices to develop a long-needed strategic oil reserve, which will be located in the United States.

- US state sues China-

The US state of Missouri sued China's leadership over the coronavirus, seeking damages over what it described as deliberate deception and insufficient action to stop the pandemic.

The first-of-a-kind state lawsuit comes amid calls in Congress to punish China and a campaign by President Donald Trump to focus on Beijing's role.

Missouri, led by Trump's Republican Party, filed the lawsuit in a federal court seeking an unspecified amount in damages and an injunction on continuing actions by China that are alleged to include hoarding of protective equipment.

- Bondi Beach to reopen for surfers -

Swimmers and surfers will return to Sydney's famed Bondi Beach next week, almost six weeks after it was closed amid a spike in coronavirus cases, officials announced.

But the white sands will remain off-limits to sunbathers, joggers and families in an effort to maintain Australia's strict social distancing requirements.

- Hong Kong virus reshuffle -

Hong Kong's unpopular leader Carrie Lam announced a cabinet reshuffle, with a number of key top officials either losing their jobs or moved sideways.

New secretaries were announced for the key technology, financial services, home affairs, mainland affairs and the civil service departments.

Lam said the reshuffle was needed to ensure the best team was in place to deal with the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and denied the changes were linked to the months of political unrest in the city last year.

- Australian retail surge -

As the coronavirus spread across the world last month, Australians rushing to buy products like toilet paper and pasta caused an unprecedented spike in retail turnover figures.

The country's seasonally adjusted retail turnover figure jumped 8.2 percent in March, with the turnover of toilet rolls, tissues, rice and pasta doubling, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

- Run on bubble tea in Singapore -

Singaporeans queued up to buy "bubble tea" -- a tea-based beverage loaded with milk, sugar and tapioca pearls -- late Tuesday as many shops selling the popular drink have been ordered to close to comply with new curbs.

As part of this, shops selling mainly drinks and snacks, as well as hair salons, must close from Wednesday.