ASEAN IN FOCUS

Indonesia frees 18,000 inmates from bursting jails over virus fears

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — Indonesia has released some 18,000 inmates in a desperate bid to stop coronavirus from rampaging through its notoriously overcrowded prison system, authorities said Thursday. The mass release comes days after the Southeast Asian nation said it would free more than 30,000 inmates to take pressure off prisons and jails beset by unsanitary conditions and long at risk of infectious diseases. The UN has called on countries to release vulnerable inmates, with […]

11-year-old Indonesian girl dies after contracting virus

  JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — An 11-year-old girl has become Indonesia’s youngest person to die after contracting the coronavirus, officials said Wednesday, as the country’s death toll from COVID-19 nearly tripled from a week ago. The girl, who was also suffering from dengue fever, was admitted to hospital on Madura Island off the coast of Java on March 19. She had a fever and and breathing difficulties, and died the following day. Tests only confirmed […]

Indonesia declares state of emergency as virus toll jumps

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — Indonesian leader Joko Widodo declared a state of emergency Tuesday as coronavirus deaths in the world’s fourth most populous country jumped again, but he resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown. Widodo’s administration has been heavily criticized for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital Jakarta, a vast megalopolis home to about 30 million people where most of the country’s virus deaths have been reported. Indonesia’s leader offered few details […]

Singapore eases monetary policy as virus slams economy

SINGAPORE (AFP) — Singapore’s central bank eased monetary policy Monday as the city-state, seen as a bellwether for the health of global trade, heads for a deep recession due to the coronavirus pandemic. The easing echoes moves made by other countries and comes after data last week showed the city-state suffered its sharpest contraction in the first quarter since the global financial crisis. The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it had flattened the slope of […]

Indonesian volcano spews massive ash cloud

  JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — Indonesia’s most active volcano Mount Merapi erupted Friday, shooting a column of ash some 5,000 metres (16,000 feet) into the air in its second major eruption this month. Ash and sand covered areas several kilometres (miles) away from the peak of the rumbling crater near Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta. But authorities did not raise Merapi’s alert level. “There has been no reports of damage from the eruption. We urge people […]

Myanmar confirms first coronavirus cases

by Sun Myat Mon and Richard Sargent YANGON, Myanmar (AFP) — Myanmar confirmed its first cases of the deadly novel coronavirus late Monday after weeks of increasing skepticism over the under-developed southeast Asian nation’s claims to be free of the disease. The country of 54 million people had been the world’s largest country by population not to report a single case of the pandemic that has confined more than 1.7 billion to their homes. With […]

Thailand virus cases rocket to 600 as crisis fears grow

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) — Thailand’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose by a third to nearly 600, the kingdom announced Sunday, as fears of a full-blown crisis take hold in a country largely spared until now. Thailand’s health ministry announced the spike was mainly in the capital, but warned residents of Bangkok not to leave and risk spreading the virus around the country. “We would like you to stay at home. Do not travel upcountry,” said health […]

Malaysia to deploy army to enforce virus restrictions

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — Malaysia will deploy the army to support the police in enforcing tough restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus because many people are flouting isolation rules, a minister said Friday. People have been told to stay at home and all schools and most businesses have closed, while Malaysians are barred from traveling overseas and foreigners from entering the country. But some are ignoring the measures introduced this week, with […]

6.3-magnitude quake strikes south of Indonesia’s Bali

BALI, Indonesia (AFP) — A strong earthquake jolted Indonesia’s holiday island of Bali early on Thursday, but no tsunami warning was issued. The quake struck at 1:45 am (1745 GMT) with an epicenter 255 kilometers south of the town of Nusa Dua, the US Geological Service reported. The epicenter was a relatively shallow 10 kilometers deep. Indonesia’s weather and geophysics bureau said there was no tsunami threat. No casualties or infrastructure damage have been reported […]

WHO says, ‘aggressive’ action needed in SEAsia to stop virus

NEW DELHI, India (AFP) — The World Health Organization called for “aggressive” action in Southeast Asia to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, warning Tuesday that some countries were heading towards community transmission of the deadly disease. Infections have soared across the region in recent weeks, forcing several countries to introduce drastic measures ranging from closing their borders to foreign arrivals and imposing nighttime curfews to closing schools and cancelling sports events. There are concerns that weaker […]

British woman dies in Bali from coronavirus

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — A British woman has died in Bali from coronavirus, authorities said Wednesday, marking Indonesia’s first confirmed death from the rapidly spreading illness. The 53-year-old died early Wednesday in a hospital on the Indonesian holiday island, but it was unclear if she contracted the virus before or after arriving in Bali late last month, local officials said. She was taken to hospital last week. Indonesian health authorities said Wednesday the woman had […]