Coronavirus latest: Australia to provide Pacific nations test kits

The Nikkei Asian Review is tracking the spread of the new coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Global cases have reached 3,672,238, according to the World Health Organization.

The worldwide death toll has hit 254,045.

To see how the disease has spread, view our virus tracker charts:

(Source photo by AP) 

Here are the latest developments (Tokyo time):

Friday, May 8

10:00 a.m. China reports one new case for May 7, down from two cases the previous day. No new imported cases were recorded, though 16 new asymptomatic cases surfaced.

9:55 a.m. Australia will provide Pacific island nations new COVID-19 test kits in a joint effort with the U.S., New Zealand and WHO. Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and Nauru have already received the kits with nine more countries set to receive theirs in the next two weeks. Many countries in the region have been unable to test on their own, instead sending specimens abroad for testing.

8:30 a.m. Japan’s household spending in March fell 6% from a year earlier, logging the biggest drop in five years, as the coronavirus outbreak kept shoppers at home. Spending by households with two or more people in real terms was 292,214 yen ($2,750), the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said.

5:18 a.m. Economies from Asia to North America have started lifting restrictions on social and business activity as the coronavirus pandemic shows signs of easing, moves health experts warn hold a risk of sparking new infections.

3:51 a.m. A drug for parasitic infections a Japanese microbiologist has helped develop is gaining attention as a possible treatment for the new coronavirus.

2:30 a.m. Norway’s prime minister says the country will reopen by mid-June most businesses and public facilities closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The announcement comes as France moves to lift its nationwide lockdown.

1:40 a.m. Japan’s ruling party is proposing to cover two-thirds of rent for small businesses for up to six months to help them survive a drop in revenue.

12:15 a.m. U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have tested negative for the novel coronavirus, a White House spokesperson says, after a valet to the president was reported to have COVID-19.

Thursday, May 7

11:50 p.m. In a sign of how the pandemic has hit economic activity, new-vehicle sales in Southeast Asia plunged 40% on the year in March, data compiled by Nikkei shows.

11:09 p.m. Japan confirms 94 new cases of COVID-19 as of 10 p.m., marking the first daily increase of fewer than 100 patients since March 30. Total cases rise to 15,389. Daily increase ran as high as 500 to 600 in mid-April.

11:00 p.m. Vietnam reports 17 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed patients in the country to 288. All 17 new cases came back from Dubai on May 3.

10:48 p.m. New U.S. applications for unemployment benefits totaled 3.16 million in the week ended May 2, slowing somewhat from the previous seven days’ 3.84 million, the Department of Labor reports.

9:40 p.m. Pakistan intends to lift its lockdown this Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan reveals, explaining that worsening economic conditions drove the decision. “We are a developing country and we can’t afford to keep the country shut for much longer,” he tells reporters. The nation’s case total has hit 24,648, though the death toll remains relatively low at 585. Khan says he wants people to be “intelligent” about the risks and follow procedures that will be shared with each province.

7:30 p.m. India this week is adjusting to a new “zone” system, which eases restrictions in “green” and “orange” areas while keeping people in “red” parts of the country under a tight lockdown. Its South Asian neighbors, which are struggling with their own virus trajectories, are likely watching closely.

6:30 p.m. Japan is likely to pay workers furloughed due to the new coronavirus crisis the same amount as regular unemployment benefits, Nikkei has learned. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare wants to implement the “deemed unemployment” system that was introduced in disaster areas following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

5:50 p.m. Tokyo confirmed 23 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, sources told Nikkei. The daily tally has been below 100 for five consecutive days in the capital. There were 38 new cases on Wednesday and 58 on Tuesday.

5:20 p.m. China accuses U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of lying in his continued criticism of Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic. The remarks were made by Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who reiterated that Beijing has been transparent about the COVID-19 outbreak and that U.S. politicians are making baseless accusations against China.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman at China’s Foreign Ministry, speaks at a regular news conference in Beijing, China, on Jan. 6, 2016. Hua on Thursday lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his criticism of China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

  © Reuters

4:30 p.m. The Japan Railways Group of seven companies reports a drop in passengers of 95% during the period from April 24 to May 6 — encompassing most of the annual Golden Week holiday — from the same period last year as people refrained from traveling due to the coronavirus outbreak and national and local government requests to stay at home. East Japan Railway, West Japan Railway, and others transported 916,000 passengers over their networks, including on Shinkansen bullet trains, marking the lowest number since records became available in 1990.

3:50 p.m. German industry output plunged 9.2% in March, its fastest rate of decline since current records began in 1991, data show, as the coronavirus pandemic slashed demand for goods from Europe’s biggest economy. The car sector, the country’s biggest exporter, contracted by 31.1% for the month.

2:50 p.m. Indonesia’s largest airline, Lion Air, announces the resumption of domestic flights on May 10, with in-cabin social distancing. The move comes after the government’s planned relaxation of public transport restrictions for essential workers, such as health care professionals and some government officials.

2:15 p.m. India reports 52,952 total cases and 1,783 deaths, with more than 10,000 infections recorded in the past three days. The country saw 3,561 infections on Thursday, compared with 2,958 on Wednesday.

1:10 p.m. China’s exports unexpectedly rose in April for the first time this year, taking some pressure off manufacturers in the world’s second-largest economy after the coronavirus pandemic battered demand. Overseas shipments in April rose 3.5% from a year earlier, marking the first positive growth since December last year, customs data showed on Thursday.

People practice social distancing while waiting to receive rice donations in front of Saint Joseph Cathedral during the COVID-19 outbreak in Hanoi in April. Vietnam has now dropped all social distance measures on modes of public transportation.

  © Reuters

12:00 p.m. Hanoi drops all distance measures on modes of public transportation like airplanes, buses and trains. The government had been insisting on people maintaining a distance of two meters from each other while in public and limiting the number of passengers transportation services could accommodate. Vietnam has now gone 20 days without someone contracting the virus from being out in public.

11:26 a.m. Philippines’ economy contracted by 0.2% in the first quarter through March as travel restrictions and lockdowns crippled business activities and household consumption.

10:30 a.m. South Korea confirms four cases, up from two a day ago but below 10 for a fourth consecutive day. The country’s total infections have reached 10,810, with 256 deaths.

10:25 a.m. New Zealand will run budget deficits for years to come and its government debt will increase to levels well beyond previous targets, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says, adding, “this is a necessary and responsible move as we fight the virus, reduce the impact on businesses and workers and rebuild our country.”

9:30 a.m. China reports two new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, the same number from the previous day. Both are imported cases. The national health authority also reports six new asymptomatic cases, versus 20 from the previous day.

7:30 a.m. Brazil’s central bank slashes interest rates more than expected on Wednesday, cutting its benchmark Selic rate by 75 basis points to a record-low 3.00% as it battles the pandemic. Brazil registers 10,503 new confirmed daily cases, well above its previous record total of 7,288 marked on April 30, and 615 new deaths, according to health ministry data. Overall, the nation has registered 125,218 cases and 8,536 deaths due to the virus.

7:06 a.m. The U.S.-China relationship is one of “disappointment and frustration,” says White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, accusing China of withholding information about the virus. “The president has said how frustrated he is at some of the decisions of China that put American lives at risk,” she added.

Families walk along a boulevard in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, April 26, 2020 amid the lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

  © AP

3:30 a.m. The World Health Organization advises countries emerging from social restrictions to proceed “extremely carefully” or risk a rapid rise in new cases. “The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully and in a phased approach,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says.

3:00 a.m. Taiwan’s health minister urges the World Health Organization to allow the island to join the body’s annual meeting against China’s wishes.

12:57 a.m. Disruptions in the North Korean economy from plunging trade have led to a surge in prices, with Pyongyang residents panic buying daily necessities, says South Korea’s spy agency.

Wednesday, May 6

10:39 p.m. More than 60 workers at a factory run by the Indonesian unit of U.S. tobacco giant Philip Morris have tested positive for the coronavirus after operations were suspended when two staff died from infections. The factory implemented strict physical distancing protocols, temperature checks and other hygiene protocols since mid-March, after the virus was first reported in Indonesia

6:09 p.m. Indonesia reported 367 new cases on Wednesday, lower than the 484 the previous day. That brings the total to 12,438, including 895 deaths and 2,317 who have recovered.

President Joko Widodo told cabinet ministers on Wednesday to use “all means necessary” to curb the virus spread. Meanwhile, the transport ministry said it will relax restrictions on rail, air and ferry services following complaints from people supposed to be exempted from movement restrictions such as healthcare and food workers.

5:35 p.m. The Philippines reports 320 new infections, the highest daily tally in a month, bringing the total to 10,004 with 658 deaths.

4:45 p.m. Singapore’s coronavirus cases topped 20,000.

The city-state on Wednesday confirmed 788 new cases, bringing the total to 20,198 — double the figure two weeks ago — with 18 deaths. Most of the recent cases are migrant workers residing in densely packed dormitories.

4:22 p.m. Thirty-eight new cases were confirmed in Tokyo on Wednesday, bringing the total in the Japanese capital to 4,750. While the daily figure is the lowest since late March, it comes at the end of Golden Week and the national holiday may have had an impact on testing and hospital hours.

12:11 p.m. Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-Chung said Wednesday that audiences of up to 1,000 will be permitted to attend professional baseball games from Friday.

10:24 a.m. South Korea confirms two new cases, down from three a day ago. Total infections reached 10,806, with 255 deaths. The country loosened social distancing regulations from today, reopening public libraries, museums and galleries.

9:10 a.m. The Walt Disney Co. said it will start reopening Shanghai Disneyland on May 11, more than three months after closing the theme park. It will be the first Disney theme park to resume business, with others — including Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, California and Florida — remaining closed.

8:23 a.m. U.S. President Donald Trump announced the White House will wind down its coronavirus task force as the country moves into the next phase of containing the epidemic. He is considering discontinuing the task force by early June.

7:53 a.m. Brazil hits a record for daily coronavirus deaths, with 600 new fatalities on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings lowered its outlook for Brazil’s credit rating to “negative” from “stable,” as the country suffers severe economic and financial damage from the pandemic.

5:00 a.m. U.S. stocks close higher but give up some of their early gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rises 0.56%, while the S&P 500 advances 0.9%.

3:41 a.m. Japanese shipbuilders have been maneuvering behind the scenes to win a contract to build the country’s first hospital ship as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to create a shortage of patient beds on land.

3:30 a.m. U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have surpassed 70,000, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

12:09 a.m. Japan will provide the potential coronavirus treatment Avigan free of charge to Iran as part of a distribution of the flu drug to more than 40 countries.

Tuesday, May 5

11:14 p.m Japan confirms 120 new cases of COVID-19 as of 10 p.m., bringing the total to 15,194.

10:30 p.m. U.S. stocks open with gains of more than 1% on hopes for re-opening the American economy.

9:41 p.m. The Indian government says it will operate 64 flights from May 7 to May 13 to bring back 14,800 of its nationals stranded overseas, including in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, the U.K., the U.S., Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

9:26 p.m. Despite the coronavirus outbreak largely being under control in China, the number of domestic tourists fell by 91 million people year-over-year during the first four days of the Golden Week national holiday which started on May 1, according to the country’s ministry of culture and tourism. Meanwhile, tourism-related revenue also plunged by roughly two-thirds to 43.2 billion yuan ($6 billion), versus nearly 117.7 billion yuan during the same period of last year.

3:15 p.m. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry says the World Health Organization should “cast off” China’s control during the coronavirus pandemic. The spokesperson also said Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO, due to China’s objections, has infuriated Taipei and created a dangerous gap in the global fight against the virus.

Tokyo Governor Yuiko Koike. 

  © Reuters

3:04 p.m. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is preparing a second round of support payments to stores that have closed to help contain the coronavirus, Nikkei has learned. As was the case with the initial subsidy, stores and restaurants are likely to receive 500,000 yen ($4,684) each.

2:27 p.m. Indonesia’s economic growth slowed more than expected in the first quarter of 2020 as the impact of the coronavirus had a devastating effect on the archipelago. The country’s real gross domestic product rose 2.97% in the three months ended in March from the same period last year. That was down from growth of 4.97% in the final quarter of 2019, according to data published by Badan Pusat Statistik, Indonesia’s statistics agency.

1:39 p.m. India witnesses the largest increase in COVID-19 cases with 3,900 new infections, compared with the 2,553 reported on Monday morning, taking the country’s total to 46,433. The number of fatalities also saw the highest jump as 195 people died in the past 24 hours. With this, the death toll now stands at 1,568.

11:25 a.m. South Korea reports three new COVID-19 cases, all imported, according to Yonhap.

11:10 a.m. New Zealand reports no new cases for a second consecutive day. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged people to double-down, saying, “Don’t do anything that snatches our potential victory at this point,” according to the New Zealand Herald.

India’s total cases of COVID-19 has risen to 46,433, with 1,568 deaths. 

  © Reuters

9:50 a.m. Data from China’s National Health Commission says it confirmed one new case on Monday, down from three the previous day.

8:04 a.m. During a midnight speech, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte apologizes to the owners of conglomerate Ayala Corp. and PLDT, and to Metro Pacific Investment Chairman Manuel Pangilinan for threatening to arrest them and rough up their faces in December over a water dispute. “Ayalas, Pangilinan, I apologize for the hurting words,” the president said. “Thank you from the bottom of [my] heart for helping us provide necessities [during the pandemic]. I can promise you that I’ll be nice.”

5:00 a.m. U.S. stocks erase early losses to close higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edges up 0.1%, while the S&P 500 rises 0.4%.

4:30 a.m. Some businesses in California may begin to reopen on a limited basis this week, Reuters quotes Gov. Gavin Newsom as saying.

3:41 a.m. Read more about how U.S. President Donald Trump has escalated his China blame game, pushing Wuhan lab theory of the original of the novel coronavirus.

2:25 a.m. As Asia focuses its resources on containing the coronavirus outbreak and its economic impact, large infrastructure projects funded by China have come to a standstill across Southeast Asia.

1:32 a.m. Malaysia disputes the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that adults avoid palm oil in their diet during the COVID-19 outbreak, with a government agency calling the advice “antiquated.” The Southeast Asian nation is the world’s second-biggest producer of palm oil.

A Sime Darby Plantation worker collects palm oil fruits at a plantation in Pulau Carey, Malaysia.

  © Reuters

12:01 a.m. Japan looks to approve flu drug Avigan as a coronavirus treatment within the month, speeding up the process by months.

Monday, May 4

10:46 p.m. Japan confirms 176 new COVID-19 cases as of 10 p.m., bringing the total to more than 15,000.

10:30 p.m. U.S. stocks open lower, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both falling around 1%.

9:07 p.m. The Philippines imposes a temporary additional 10% tax on imported crude oil and refined petroleum products to generate funds for efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

6:33 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe extends the country’s state of emergency to May 31.

5:53 p.m. Hong Kong’s first-quarter GDP falls 8.9% compared to a year earlier, a steeper decline than markets had expected and the worst contraction on record.

4:25 p.m. U.K. defense minister Ben Wallace says China has questions to answer over the information it shared about the novel coronavirus outbreak, though a post mortem over its role should come later. Asked by LBC radio if China had questions to answer over how quickly it made the world aware of the extent of the crisis, he said: “I think it does,” Reuters reported.

3:10 p.m. Indonesia’s statistics bureau says the country’s foreign tourist arrivals fell by 64.11% in March compared to the same month last year. Arrivals from China dropped more than 97%.

Bali is among Indonesia’s tourist draws that have been left all but empty by the coronavirus outbreak. 

  © Reuters

2:44 p.m. The Vietnamese government has ordered companies to make ventilators in a move to bolster the country’s capacity to supply its hospitals, and conglomerate Vingroup is looking to secure outside partners to answer the call.

2:08 p.m. Toshiba in June will start four-day workweeks at its manufacturing sites in Japan, Nikkei reports. Employees will work more hours each workday but commute one fewer day each week.

12:35 p.m. Japan’s economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura says a panel of coronavirus experts has approved a government plan to extend the state of emergency until the end of May. The government is set to make the extension official later in the day.

10:52 a.m. New Zealand reports zero new cases of COVID-19 for the first time in nearly six weeks. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says he wants to keep it that way, according to the New Zealand Herald.

9:59 a.m. China reports three new cases of the coronavirus, all imported, health authorities say.

8:10 a.m. Lynas Corp, the largest producer of rare earths outside China, says its processing plant in Malaysia will restart today at about a 70% production rate.

4:15 a.m. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is “a significant amount of evidence” the new coronavirus emerged from a Chinese laboratory.

A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19. 

  © Reuters

Sunday, May 3

6:47 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to extend Japan’s state of emergency by around a month through May 31 to fight the novel coronavirus, a government official says.

6:04 p.m. Indonesia reports 349 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections in the Southeast Asian country to 11,192, and 14 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 845.

5:49 p.m. Malaysia reports 122 new confirmed cases, taking the cumulative total to 6,298, and two new deaths, raising that total to 105.

5:05 p.m. The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines climbs to 9,223 after the Health Ministry reported 295 new infections. The ministry records four more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the tally to 607.

4:14 p.m. Singapore’s health ministry confirms 657 new coronavirus infections, taking the city-state’s total to 18,205. Most of the new cases are among migrant workers living in dormitories.

3:09 p.m. South Korea will further relax social distancing rules on Wednesday, allowing a phased reopening of businesses, as the nation has largely managed to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun says.

3:33 a.m. Authorities in Singapore say they are preparing to ease up on the business restrictions over the next several weeks. Laundries and barbershops will be among operations allowed to reopen.

Saturday, May 2

9:34 p.m. Japan’s health minister Katsunobu Kato says the approval process for promising coronavirus treatment remdesivir will be sped up to around a week. Tokyo, meanwhile, is urging the U.S. to secure it supplies of the drug.

5:45 p.m. Indonesia records 292 new coronavirus cases taking the total number of infections to 10,843, and 31 new deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 831.

5:10 p.m. The Philippines records 156 new cases of the coronavirus and 24 more deaths, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 8,928 and fatalities to 603.

4:21 p.m. Singapore confirms 447 new coronavirus infections, the smallest daily rise in two weeks, taking the city-state’s tally of cases to 17,548 with 16 virus-related deaths. Most of the new cases are among migrant workers living in dormitories, the health ministry says.

3:05 p.m. Thailand reported six new cases of the new coronavirus and no new deaths. Thirteen additional patients have recovered and were discharged, according to the Bangkok Post.

To catch up on earlier developments, see last week’s latest updates.

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