Asia virus latest: Japan to extend emergency; Malaysia eases curbs

Singapore (AFP) –


Here are the latest developments from Asia related to the coronavirus pandemic:

- Japan set to extend virus emergency -

Japan's government prepared to extend its nationwide state of emergency to the end of May as it braced for a lengthy battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared an initial month-long state of emergency for Tokyo and six other regions on April 7, later expanding it to cover the entire country.

It is to expire on Wednesday, but Abe is expected to announce an extension to May 31 after a panel advising the government approved the plan.

- Malaysia eases curbs -

Malaysians started slowing returning to their offices, cars were on the roads in greater numbers and joggers enjoyed runs outside for the first time in weeks, as a strict lockdown to fight the virus was eased.

Most businesses have been allowed to reopen as long as employees practise social-distancing, although those where people could come into close contact -- such as cinemas -- must stay closed for now.

Malaysia has had a relatively small outbreak, so far reporting about 6,300 infections and around 100 deaths.

- Australia, New Zealand weigh trans-Tasman 'bubble' -

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will join an Australian leaders' meeting to discuss establishing a "trans-Tasman bubble" that allows the neighbours to lift bilateral coronavirus travel bans.

With both nations seeing significant drops in new infections, Ardern accepted Australian counterpart Scott Morrison's invitation to join a virtual meeting of the National Cabinet, which brings together Australia's regional and federal leaders.

Ardern said the two-week quarantine periods both Australia and New Zealand currently impose on international arrivals would be mutually waived under the proposal.

She was reluctant to speculate on when it could take effect but warned: "Don't expect this to happen in a couple of weeks time."

- Vietnam kids back at school -

Millions of schoolchildren in Vietnam returned to class after the country reported its 17th straight day of no domestically transmitted coronavirus infections.

The decision to reopen schools came after the Southeast Asian nation eased social distancing measures at the end of April -- with experts pointing to a decisive response involving mass quarantines and expansive contact tracing for its apparent success in containing the disease.

- Equities tumble -

Asian markets suffered steep losses, tracking a selloff in New York after Donald Trump sparked fears of a renewed trade war with China over its role in the coronavirus pandemic.

Claims by the US president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the disease started in a lab in Wuhan, and that those responsible would be held to account, overshadowed a further slowing of infections and deaths from COVID-19.

- Warriors coach urges players 'to be smart' on virus rules -

New Zealand Warriors coach Stephen Kearney warned players not to squander the chance for Australia's National Rugby League to become one of the first sports in the world to restart from coronavirus shutdown.

Kearney's Auckland-based Warriors arrived in Australia on Sunday after being granted a special exemption to enter the country and train en masse ahead of a planned resumption of the sport.