Asia virus latest: Ramadan begins; Pompeo targets China

Singapore (AFP) –


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

- Muslims mark Ramadan with virus lockdowns -

Muslims around the world began marking Ramadan under coronavirus lockdowns with unprecedented bans on family gatherings and mass prayers, while a pushback in some countries has sparked fears of a surge in infections.

This year, the holy daytime fasting month will be a sombre affair for many across Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

Widespread rules have been imposed banning praying in mosques or meeting relatives and friends for large "iftar" meals at dusk -- a Ramadan centrepiece.

- Pompeo says China may have known of virus in November -

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged that China may have known of the new coronavirus as early as November, renewing accusations that Beijing has not been transparent.

"You'll recall that the first cases of this were known by the Chinese government maybe as early as November, but certainly by mid-December," Pompeo said in an interview.

- Crude up again but virus hits stocks -

US oil prices were set to end a historically bad week on a positive note, extending gains owing to rising Iran-US tensions, though equities edged down following a series of crushing economic data.

- Philippines extends curbs -

The Philippines extended to May 15 the quarantine covering the capital Manila and surrounding areas, but ordered restrictions be loosened in places with fewer coronavirus cases.

The lockdown covering Manila's 12 million people was due to expire at the end of April, but President Rodrigo Duterte announced an extension as the nation battles a growing number of infections and deaths.

- Japan cruise ship cases near 100 -

At least 91 crew members on a cruise ship docked in Nagasaki have the coronavirus, Japanese officials said, after another 43 tested positive.

The Italy-flagged Costa Atlantica has no passengers and arrived in the southern Japanese port for repairs in January.

- You've got mail: Tom Hanks writes to bullied boy called 'Corona' -

Hollywood megastar and coronavirus survivor Tom Hanks has written a comforting letter to a bullied Australian boy called Corona and gifted him a cherished typewriter bearing the same name.

Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in March and spent two weeks recovering in a Queensland hospital, before returning home to the United States.

- Japan mayor under fire for 'women dawdle at shops' remark -

The mayor of Japan's Osaka has come under fire for suggesting men should do grocery shopping during the coronavirus outbreak because women are indecisive and "take a long time".

Japan is under a state of emergency over the pandemic, and residents in some areas have been asked to shop less frequently and only send one family member out to get supplies to limit contact.