Asia virus latest: New Zealand lockdown ends; Japan seeks to lift emergency

Singapore (AFP) –


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

- Crewcuts and catch-ups as New Zealand lockdown ends -

New Zealanders mingled with friends and hit the shopping malls for the first time in seven weeks as a national lockdown ended and businesses faced a "new normal" minimising the constant threat of coronavirus.

A long-awaited haircut was the top priority for many Kiwis after almost two months in isolation, with queues of tangle-headed customers forming at barbers before dawn.

- Japan seeks to lift virus emergency in most regions -

Japan's government said it wants to lift a state of emergency declared over the coronavirus in most of the country, though not yet the capital Tokyo and other urban centres.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier this month extended a nationwide state of emergency until the end of May.

But with infections sharply down, his government is now hoping to lift the measure early in up to 39 of the country's 47 prefectures.

- US warns China hacking virus research -

US authorities warned that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus data on treatments and vaccines, adding fuel to Washington's war with Beijing over the pandemic.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said organisations researching COVID-19 were at risk of "targeting and network compromise" by China.

- Nearly 600,000 Australians lose jobs as lockdown bites -

Almost 600,000 Australians lost their jobs as the virus shutdown took hold in April, the steepest monthly drop since records began more than 40 years ago, data showed.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said 100,000 people filed for unemployment benefits, while a further 500,000 left the workforce altogether.

- Bangladesh builds mega field hospital as outbreak worsens -

Bangladesh has prepared a huge field hospital in three weeks to treat coronavirus patients in an attempt to fight the intensifying outbreak in the country.

The South Asian nation has reported nearly 18,000 infections and 269 deaths from COVID-19 despite a countrywide lockdown, but critics say the numbers are far lower than the true virus figures because of insufficient testing.

- Maldives extends lockdown as cases rise -

The Maldives extended its lockdown for another two weeks as the former tourist hotspot reported its fourth coronavirus fatality and the pandemic spread rapidly in the congested capital Male.

- Stocks sink after Fed chief issues warning -

Asian equities sank following another sell-off in New York after the head of the Federal Reserve warned of "lasting damage" to the economy from shutdowns caused by the coronavirus, compounding worries about a second wave of infections.

- Pro golf resumes in South Korea -

Birdsong and the rattle of the ball dropping into the cup -- accompanied by camera shutters -- were the only sounds to be heard as professional women's golf entered the post-coronavirus era on a closed South Korean course.

Spectators were barred from the Lakewood Country Club as the KLPGA Championship got under way in Yangju, northeast of Seoul, with a host of social distancing measures in place to guard against infection.