Coronavirus latest: Malaysia blasts WHO advice against palm oil

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 3,356,205, according to the World Health Organization.

The worldwide death toll has hit 238,730.

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


(Source photo by AP) 

Here are the latest developments (Tokyo time):

Tuesday, May 5

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.

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

10:30 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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