Asia virus latest: No China growth target; Olympic warning

Singapore (AFP) –


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

- No annual growth target for virus-hit China, a first in years -

China's communist rulers avoided setting an annual growth target for the first time in decades, as they struggle to deal with the "immense" economic challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Analysts say the move points to China missing its key political goal of doubling gross domestic product from 2010 levels, a blow to the ruling party's pledge to provide prosperity in exchange for unquestioned political power.

- Olympics official sees 'real problems' in holding Games in 2021 -

A senior Olympics official has warned that holding the postponed Tokyo Games next year faces "real problems", with even a vaccine unlikely to stave off the threat of the coronavirus.

John Coates, the International Olympic Committee's pointman for Tokyo 2020, indicated that officials would start deciding in October if and how the pandemic-hit Games could go ahead in July 2021.

- Australia extends cruise ship ban -

Australia extended its ban on most international cruise ships for three months until mid-September, making no mention of a hoped-for exemption for travel to neighbouring New Zealand.

The ban applies to any cruise liner capable of carrying more than 100 passengers, the Australian Border Force said in a statement.

- India central bank slashes rates, warns of contraction -

India's central bank slashed interest rates in an effort to contain the economic fallout of the world's largest coronavirus lockdown and warned the economy could contract this year.

Even before almost all activity shut down in late March, Asia's third-largest economy was struggling to gain traction with sluggish growth, record unemployment and banks reluctant to lend.

- N. Zealand opposition changes leader as PM support soars -

New Zealand's conservative opposition switched leaders in a last-gasp bid to counter the record support Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is enjoying for containing the coronavirus.

National Party lawmakers voted to ditch Simon Bridges after opinion polls predicted he was headed for a wipeout at a general election on September 19.

- Myanmar editor jailed for two years for virus error -

A Myanmar news editor has been jailed for two years after his agency reported a coronavirus death that turned out to be false, his lawyer said.

Chief editor Zaw Ye Htet was arrested May 13, the same day his online news agency Dae Pyaw published an erroneous article alleging there had been a death due to the COVID-19 in eastern Karen state.

- Wallaby Rodda among three to quit Reds over virus pay cut -

Wallabies forward Izack Rodda and two teammates are parting ways with the Queensland Reds, after they were suspended for refusing a pandemic-prompted pay cut.

Rugby Australia's said that Rodda, Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas had moved Friday to terminate their contracts over the increasingly bitter pay dispute.

- Afghan cyclist in 'door-to-door' campaign -

Afghan cyclist Idrees Syawash is determined to help curb the spread of the coronavirus so he pedals across rural areas encouraging people to wear masks and wash their hands.

"When coronavirus came to Afghanistan, I went to some villages and saw that people were not aware of it at all," Syawash, 27, told AFP as he travelled across the eastern province of Nangarhar this week.

"I decided to use my bicycle... to launch a door-to-door awareness campaign."