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.

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 charged that China may have known of the new coronavirus as early as November, renewing accusations that Beijing has not been transparent and again drawing ire from China.

"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.

- 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.

Meanwhile, Japan added 14 more countries to its list of places that Japanese nationals should not go.

The new countries include Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and the total number of nations on the list is now 87, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said.

- Airport seizes Virgin Australia planes to recoup debt -

Several Virgin Australia planes were seized in what an airport operator said was an attempt to recoup debt from the carrier, which collapsed under the strain of the pandemic this week.

News footage from above Perth Airport on Australia's west coast showed heavy machinery, a car and stair trucks blocking the aircraft near terminal gates to prevent them from taking off.

- Hong Kong holds virus-delayed exams with health checks -

Students in Hong Kong wore mandatory face masks and had their temperatures checked as they filed into exam halls to take delayed university entrance tests.

Tens of thousands of pupils will sit the Diploma of Secondary Education exams across hundreds of centres over the next month in the financial hub, which on Friday reported no new virus cases.

- 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 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 -

Osaka's mayor has come under fire for suggesting men should do grocery shopping during the 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.