Asia virus latest: China bans foreigners, markets up on stimulus

Here are the latest developments in Asia related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

– China bars foreigners to halt second wave –

Foreigners are banned from entering China, while non-nationals with valid visas and resident permits will be blocked from returning to the country from midnight Friday, in a bid to halt a second wave of infections.

Other measures include reducing the number of international flights and limiting the capacity on board to 75 percent.

In recent weeks China’s tally of cases has dwindled dramatically, with only a handful of domestic patients each day — but there has been a surge of infected people arriving from new hotspots overseas.

– Markets bounce on US stimulus – 

Asian equities rallied again and the dollar extended losses, with traders buoyed by government and central bank pledges to prop up the virus-ravaged global economy.

Markets have had a brutal month as the pandemic spreads around the globe, but have bounced back in recent days as policymakers unleash unprecedented stimulus measures. 

– Singaporeans may face jail for standing too close –

Singaporeans could be jailed for up to six months if they intentionally stand close to someone else, under tough new rules to halt the spread of the virus.

The city-state has introduced a series of new measures to tackle the virus, including closing bars and cinemas as well as banning large events. 

– US cancels Philippine war games – 

The US military has cancelled large-scale exercises involving thousands of troops in the Philippines in May due to the coronavirus.

The war games, set to be held on May 4-15 according to a US military statement, usually involve several thousand troops from the two long-standing allies and a smaller contingent from Australia.

– Afghanistan to release prisoners – 

Afghanistan has ordered the release of up to 10,000 prisoners — mostly women, juveniles and sick people — in a bid to slow the spread of the virus, officials said.

The move comes after an increase in local COVID-19 cases and as tens of thousands of Afghans return from neighbouring Iran, one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

– Singapore Airlines to get cash injection –

Singapore’s flag carrier said it was getting extra funding of up to Sg$19 billion ($13 billion) to help weather the pandemic, which is hammering the aviation sector.

The airline will raise up to Sg$15 billion with the backing of its majority shareholder, state investment fund Temasek, while local bank DBS will provide a Sg$4 billion loan. 

– Bells call Sydney faithful to prayer – 

Catholic churches across Sydney will start ringing their bells five times a day from Sunday to encourage followers to pray for an end to the pandemic, officials said, after the government banned religious services as part of the effort to stem the disease’s spread.

“The ringing of church bells is a powerful reminder to the faithful that we are all united together in a prayer for all those impacted by the coronavirus,” Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher said in a statement.