Borders shut in several Asia-Pacific countries over COVID-19 fears, S. Korea unveils "unprecedented" aid package

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-19 20:51:47|Editor: huaxia

Medical workers walk at a hospital in Daegu, South Korea, March 15, 2020. (Photo by Lee Sang-ho/Xinhua)

Several countries have closed their borders as confirmed cases are increasing rapidly in the Asia-Pacific region, with a set of measures unveiled to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus.

HONG KONG, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Several Asia-Pacific countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia and Myanmar, have closed their borders on Thursday to contain the spread of COVID-19, while South Korea announced an emergency financial aid package for small businesses.


Australia's cases of COVID-19 have increased by 111 cases in a single day, bringing the total number to 565 on Thursday morning.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has decided to close the nation's borders for all visitors as COVID-19 is spreading globally.

Travelers who are not residents or citizens of Australia will be banned from entering the country from 9 p.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) on Friday, Morrison told a press conference.

A Qantas airplane takes off from Sydney Airport, in Sydney, Australia, March 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)

Australia's central bank has cut the country's official interest rate to a record low of 0.25 percent on Thursday, in response to the extensive economic impacts of COVID-19.

The country's national carrier Qantas has halted all international flights and temporarily stood down two-thirds of its workforce, in an effort to endure mass travel disruptions caused by COVID-19.


New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country's borders will be closed to any visitors except citizens and residents from 11:59 p.m. Thursday due to COVID-19 concerns.

The total number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 28 on Thursday in New Zealand.

A medical worker prepares to enter a negative pressure room to check the condition of a COVID-19 patient in a hospital in Daegu, South Korea, March 18, 2020. (Photo by Lee Sang-ho/Xinhua)


South Korea reported 152 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of midnight Thursday local time, raising the total number of infections to 8,565.

The newly confirmed cases rose above 100 for the first time in five days, after growing in double digits from Sunday to Wednesday.

South Korea decided to offer 50 trillion won (39 billion U.S. dollars) worth of emergency financial aid package for small businesses amid rising worry about the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak.

South Korean stocks and currency hit the lowest close in over 10 years as fears mounted over the COVID-19 outbreak across the world.

In the morning, its stocks triggered trading halt after plunging over 8 percent and the central bank said it will buy 1.5 trillion won (1.2 billion U.S. dollars) worth of government bonds to help stabilize the local bond market.

A passenger wearing a mask passes by an electronic board showing the stock index in Tokyo, Japan, on March 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)


Japan's health ministry and local governments said the number of COVID-19 infections nationwide had risen to 936 cases as of 6:30 p.m. local time Thursday.

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) bought 1.3 trillion yen (11.91 billion U.S. dollars) worth of government bonds in an emergency market operation aimed at curbing the rise of long-term yields amid the recent volatility.


Fiji reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday.

In a televised speech, Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said that the patient from Fiji's second-largest city of Lautoka is in stable condition and is being monitored by health officials.

He said that the person contracted the disease overseas and the health teams were working on getting in contact with people who could have been potentially exposed to the virus.

Police officers wearing masks check vehicles in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 19, 2020. (Photo by Chong Voon Chung/Xinhua)


Malaysia announced 110 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 900, said the Health Ministry.

Of the new cases, 63 had been traced to a large scale religious event held in the capital of Kuala Lumpur from late February to early March, Health Minister Adham Baba said.

The Chinese embassy and Chinese companies in Malaysia donated the first batch of medical supplies to Malaysian hospitals in solidarity on the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.

The medical materials, including 5,000 face masks and 10,000 surgical masks, were delivered to Malaysia's Sungai Buloh hospital, one of the designated facilities to treat COVID-19 patients.

Photo taken on March 18, 2020 shows a view of the empty Singapore-Johor Causeway. (Photo by Then Chih Wey/Xinhua)


Singapore reported 47 new cases by Wednesday noon, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 313.

Of the record high of 47, 33 were imported ones, 30 of whom were Singapore residents returning from abroad.

The Singapore government also announced that local residents and short-term visitors must observe a 14-day self-isolation period on entering Singapore starting from 11:59 p.m. March 20.

Singapore shares closed 4.73 percent lower on Thursday, as rising worries about a global recession kept investors on edge.

The blue mosque is empty ahead of Afghan New Year in Mazar-i-Sharif, capital of Balkh province, northern Afghanistan, March 19,2020. (Xinhua/Kawa Basharat)


The Afghan government has further toughened measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country, closing wedding halls, restaurants, sports complexes and public baths.


The COVID-19 outbreak has claimed 25 lives in Indonesia, with 82 new cases reported across the country, said the government's spokesperson for all coronavirus-related matters Achmad Yurianto.

The total cases have increased to 309 and 15 people have recovered from the disease.


The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India rose to 169, India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

Of these, 144 cases are Indian nationals, 25 are foreign nationals, and the number includes three who have died because of the COVID-19 in the country.

A staff member sprays disinfectant for a bus in New Delhi, India, March 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Javed Dar)


Fifteen more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Philippines, bringing the total number in the country to 217.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the number of deaths remained at 17, adding eight patients have so far recovered.

The Philippine central bank decided to cut the interest rate by 50 basis points to 3.25 percent, effective on Friday, in an effort to buttress the Philippine economy amid COVID-19 pandemic.

People disinfect a vehicle used to transport people home before it leaves a quarantine facility in Vietnam's northern province of Hoa Binh on March 18, 2020. (VNA/Handout via Xinhua)


Vietnam has made more facilities ready to be used as quarantine centers for 20,000 more people, daily newspaper Vietnam News reported Thursday.

The country's military has established 140 isolation areas nationwide with a capacity of accommodating more than 44,700 people, the news agency quoted brigadier Nguyen Xuan Kien, head of Army Medical Department under Ministry of Defense as saying, adding that the army is working to receive up to 20,000 more people in case of emergency.


The Lao government has suspended the issuance of visas for foreign tourists for 30 days and suspended all levels of education to prevent COVID-19, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said.

All types of visas-on-arrival and electronic visas (E-visas) are suspended, the premier said as he concluded the first day of the monthly cabinet meeting for March.

People wait for a train at the railway station in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Gayan Sameera/Xinhua)


The number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in Sri Lanka has risen to 51 after eight more patients were detected with the virus on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said.

All those confirmed with the COVID-19 are receiving treatment at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) on the outskirts of Colombo, while another hospital is being equipped in Welikanda in the north-central province in case more cases may be found in the coming days.


Cambodia decided to shutter its borders with Vietnam in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19, as the confirmed cases in the kingdom have increased to 37.

"In the spirit of friendship and mutual understanding with regard to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, Cambodia wishes to request Vietnamese authorities to inform Vietnamese nationals not to travel to Cambodia by land, waterway and air," said a Cambodian foreign ministry's letter.

Cambodia's Ministry of Health late on Wednesday confirmed 37 total cases of COVID-19, up from 35 cases earlier in the day.

A worker carries bunches of bananas along the Yangon River in Yangon, Myanmar, March 17, 2020. (Xinhua/U Aung)


Maldives' Health Protection Agency (HPA) said that all citizens arriving from countries that are exempt from temporary travel restrictions will be kept in home-quarantine for 14 days starting Thursday.

Maldives has 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has declared a State of Public Health Emergency.


Myanmar's Foreign Affairs Ministry announced a temporary suspension of entry of foreign nationals through border checkpoints from Thursday to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The country will help the most vulnerable businesses in the garment manufacturing sector, hotels and tourism as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to a statement of the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry late Wednesday.