World News in Brief: May 26

Tuesday, 2020-05-26 18:39:52
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Japanese face 'new normal' after coronavirus emergency lifted. (Photo: Reuters)
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A day after Japan ended its state of emergency, Tokyo residents took to the streets with a mixture of relief and trepidation as they prepared for a "new normal" of living with the novel coronavirus. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo lifted the state of emergency in the capital and four remaining prefectures on Monday (May 25), claiming victory for managing to keep total infections relatively low, at about 16,600 cases.

* A global campaign to fund the development of vaccines and therapies against COVID-19 has so far raised EUR9.5 billion (US$10.4 billion), the head of the European Commission said on Tuesday (May 26). The pledging campaign, which the United States shunned, raised US$8 billion from global leaders and other institutions on May 4, when it was launched.

* Malaysia reported 187 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with illegal migrants held at a detention centre accounting for most of them, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 7,604. The health ministry said no new deaths were recorded. The total number of coronavirus fatalities in Malaysia currently stands at 115.

* Indonesia reported on Tuesday 415 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 23,165, its health ministry said. Indonesia also confirmed 27 new deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 1,418, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto told reporters. As of Tuesday, 188,302 people have been tested and 5,877 have recovered.

* The Philippine health ministry on Tuesday reported 13 deaths and 350 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the largest single-day increase in infections in seven weeks. In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases have risen to 14,669 and deaths have reached 886. It said a total of 3,412 patients have recovered.

* Thailand on Tuesday reported three new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, bringing its total to 3,045 confirmed cases and 57 fatalities. All three new cases were Thai nationals who recently returned from overseas and are currently in quarantine, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's coronavirus task force said. There are 2,929 patients who have recovered.

* Indonesia's military ordered the deployment of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police on Tuesday to enforce rules on wearing masks and safe distancing after reports of people in the world's fourth-most populous nation flouting them.

* Singapore unveiled its fourth multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package in as many months on Tuesday to cushion the blow from the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses and households. The latest package, focused on retaining jobs, is worth SGD33 billion (US$23.22 billion) and was unveiled by finance minister Heng Swee Keat as the country downgraded its 2020 GDP forecast and faces the deepest recession in its short history.

* Spain on Tuesday urged its European Union partners to set up common rules, including potential health checks for passengers, to open up borders and reestablish freedom of travel as national coronavirus lockdowns are phased out. The government also declared a 10-day official mourning period from Wednesday (May 27) to honour the country's dead from the coronavirus pandemic. Spain has recorded 26,834 fatalities from the coronavirus, one of the world's highest tolls. It has had 235,400 confirmed cases and is just emerging from a strict national lockdown imposed in mid-March.

* Thailand's cabinet has agreed to set up a committee to consider whether Thailand should seek membership in an Asia-Pacific trade agreement after widespread opposition last month amid concerns joining the pact may harm the agriculture industry. The lower house panel will open for public opinions on membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek told a news briefing.

* Released from lockdown three weeks ago, Hungarians are making day trips to the blue waters of Lake Balaton, raising hopes that tourism may recover sooner than expected from the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Hungarian economy is expected to shrink this year, but to rebound quickly in 2021. The country has recorded around 3,800 cases of the coronavirus, with 499 deaths.

* Indian states witnessing millions of migrant labourers returning from the big cities are recording rising coronavirus infections, officials said on Tuesday, fearing that the pandemic could spread through villages where medical care is basic at best. On Tuesday, India had recorded a total 145,380 infections and a death toll of 4,167, low figures for the world's second-most populous country when compared with some countries in Europe.

* Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday called for an ideological truce between employers and workers to revive the country's AUD2 trillion (US$1.3 trillion) economy, which has been badly damaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Australia's more than 7,100 COVID-19 infections and 102 deaths are low compared to many other developed countries, but the measures imposed to contain the disease have pushed the economy to the brink of its first recession in 30 years.

* Denmark's economy is facing its biggest contraction since World War Two this year as a result of global coronavirus lockdown measures, the finance ministry said on Tuesday. The finance ministry now expects the economy to shrink by 5.3% this year, down from a pre-coronavirus crisis forecast of 1.5% growth. In comparison, the euro zone economy is expected to contract 7.5% in 2020, according to a Reuters poll of economists. During the financial crisis in 2009, the Danish economy shrunk by 4.9%.

* Britain will provide anti-viral drug remdesivir to certain COVID-19 patients that it is most likely to benefit as part of a collaboration with manufacturer Gilead Sciences, the health ministry said on Tuesday. The department of health said that early data from clinical trials around the world, including the UK, showed that the drug could shorten the recovery time of COVID-19 patients by 4 days. It did not say how many patients would be treated under the arrangement.

* The EU is willing to shift its stance on fisheries in negotiations with Britain next week, sources said, in what would be the first major concession from the bloc in talks on their new relationship after Brexit. Fishing is particularly politically sensitive for France, and the 27-nation bloc says it would not seal a new trade deal with Britain without a stable agreement on that issue.

* The British government has awarded more than GBP32 billion (US$39 billion) in loans and guarantees to businesses to see them through the coronavirus pandemic, finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday.

* Ride hailing company Uber Technologies Inc's Indian arm will cut 600 jobs across functions, as it navigates a strict coronavirus lockdown that has brought businesses to a grinding halt, Uber India President Pradeep Parameswaran said on Tuesday.

* The Afghan government urged the Taliban to extend a three-day ceasefire set to end on Tuesday night, while announcing it would free 900 members of the insurgent group in the biggest such release yet. The release is part of a prisoner swap under a deal struck by the Taliban and the United States in Doha in February, as a precursor to peace talks between the Islamist militants and an inclusive Afghan delegation aiming to end a two-decade-old war.