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8 died in medical evacuation plane crash in Philippines

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A chartered medical evacuation flight crashed during takeoff in the Philippines on Sunday, killing eight people, airport officials said.

According to the Manila International Airport Authority, the West Wind 24 aircraft was taking off from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport when it burst into flames and crashed.

“The flight, which was on a med-evac mission to Haneda, Japan, was carrying two passengers and six crew members.

“Unfortunately, no passenger survived the accident,” it said.

According to an unconfirmed flight manifest, the two passengers were a 63-year-old Canadian man and a 58-year-old Filipino-American woman.

The six Filipinos were three pilots, a flight mechanic, a doctor and a nurse.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Wale Ojetimi
(NAN)

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Russia to build space station, saying ISS becoming obsolete

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Russia plans to build a new space station because the current International Space Station will last only another decade at most, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Monday.

“It’s still unclear whether the new station will be international or national,’’ Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said in comments carried by the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Rogozin said that the International Space Station (ISS) would be operable for another seven to 10 years.

The ISS, with segments built by Russia and the U.S., has been in continuous use for the past two decades.

The orbiting laboratory has been a collaboration of mostly U.S. and Russian crew members, tasked with conducting scientific research that would be impossible on Earth’s surface.

It is a unique source of cooperation between these two rival powers.

Rogozin did not provide a timeline for the construction of Russia’s new space station.

He said the issue of whether it would host international crews would be decided in the near future.

“The technical preparations are supposed to start now,’’ Rogozin said.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Chaos at Indian airports as country resumes domestic air travel

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India resumed domestic flights on Monday, two months after a coronavirus lockdown was imposed, but confusion and chaos prevailed at major airports as large numbers of flights were cancelled.

Air services were suspended in late March when India went into a lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, bringing the domestic aviation sector to the brink of collapse.

More than 80 flights to and from the capital New Delhi were cancelled on Monday, airport authorities said, with irate passengers complaining of not being informed until the last minute.

Similar scenes were taking place at airports in Mumbai and Chennai, with many passengers sitting outside after their flights were cancelled, domestic news channels showed.

The cancellations were a result of confusion as each state made its own set of rules on easing restrictions, including capping the number of flights to address concerns about infections being imported from other cities.

States also had different rules on the duration of quarantine for arriving passengers, in some places as long as 28 days.

“We travelled (all) night to catch a flight from the Delhi airport but we are now told our flight is cancelled. We got no notifications from our airlines,” a passenger at told a domestic news channel.

Passengers were also stranded at airports in southern cities of Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram after flights were cancelled, broadcaster NDTV reported.

Eastern India’s main airport in Kolkata was not yet operational. West Bengal, the state in which the city is located, was battered by Cyclone Amphan last week and repair works are under way.

India’s government last week announced the resumption of domestic flights in a “calibrated” way, with airline companies allowed to operate one-third of their scheduled flights.

It devised a protocol including physical distancing, no-contact check-in at airports, thermal screening and use of a mandatory COVID-19 tracking app.

But a plan to keep the middle seat vacant on planes in accordance with physical distancing was dropped to cap ticket prices.

The Supreme Court on Monday directed international flights repatriating Indian nationals to have the middle seat vacant from June 7 to prevent infections. It was not clear whether this would apply to domestic flights.

The resumption of domestic travel comes as the country entered the top 10 countries worst-hit by the virus, after four days of record spikes in the number of new coronavirus cases.

India registered 6,977 new patients in the last 24 hours, taking the total to over 138,000 cases, overtaking Iran. 4,021 deaths linked with COVID-19 have been confirmed.

India that entered its fourth phase of lockdown on May 18, announced several relaxations including resumption of domestic travel, allowing bus and passenger vehicles, within and between states but outside of containment zones.

Passenger train services will also expand from existing 15 trains to more than 200 from June 1.

Aviation officials indicated that international flights may begin by mid-June.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Kuwait records 21,967 COVID-19 cases, 165 deaths

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Kuwait on Monday reported 665 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 21,967 and the death toll to 165, the health ministry said in a statement.

Currently, 15,181 patients are receiving treatment, including 182 in ICU, according to the statement.

The ministry also announced the recovery of 504 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 6,621.

The Kuwaiti government has imposed a full curfew in the country to curb the rapid rise of coronavirus cases.

Kuwait and China have been supporting each other and cooperating closely in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kuwait donated medical supplies worth 3 million U.S. dollars to China at the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, while China has been facilitating the procurement of medical supplies by Kuwait.

On April 27, a team of Chinese medical experts visited Kuwait to assist the Arab country’s anti-coronavirus fight, through sharing with Kuwaiti counterparts their experience and expertise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

(XINHUA)

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Spanish minister invites foreign tourists to start booking holidays

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Spanish Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Reyes Maroto on Monday issued an invitation for foreign tourists to start booking holidays in Spain from July as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on radio station Onda Cero, Maroto said it was “perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July.”

She said that once Spain ends the State of Alarm, which limits freedom of movement into and around the country (it will currently last until June 7) and the accompanying quarantine measures which have also been imposed on foreign visitors, “tourists will be allowed back into Spain.”

Spain was the second most popular tourist destination in the world in 2019, with just under 84 million visitors providing around 12 percent of the country’s GDP. The minister said she hoped saving at least part of the tourist season would help alleviate the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.

“If we work as we have done in the past two years to strengthen the trademark and train workers in the sector, we are going to be able to save some of the summer… I am convinced the sector will help us out of the social and economic crisis,” she said.

On Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also said that Spain would attempt to save its tourist season.

“People can plan their holidays. We will guarantee tourists will not be at risk and will not present a risk to us either… I want to announce there will be a tourist season. I publically invite all of the establishments at the beach and in the interior to prepare to renew their activity in the coming days,” said Sanchez in a televised speech.

The Spanish health authorities have so far confirmed over 235,000 coronavirus cases and 28,752 deaths.

(XINHUA)

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Spain to welcome foreign tourists back from July

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Spain on Monday urged foreign tourists to return from July as one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns eased, with streets gradually filling again and some pupils returning to school.

The world’s second-most visited nation closed its doors and beaches in March to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, but has seen out the worst and plans to lift a 14-day quarantine requirement on overseas arrivals within weeks.

“It is perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July,” Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto told radio station Onda Cero.

Maroto said since Spain geared up to salvage a tourism industry that normally draws 80 million people a year.

The hard-hit capital Madrid was coming back to life on Monday, with people allowed back into its main Retiro park and a few bars and restaurant terraces reopening.

“This is great; I was really looking forward to it. And so was my dog!” said interior designer Anna Pardo, walking her pet in the sunshine in the Retiro.

Strolling, jogging and chatting, Madrilenos passed through the park’s shaded alleys or stopped for a moment to enjoy its small lake, still devoid of the usual rowing boats.

Meanwhile, bars and restaurants are now allowed to open terraces at 50 per cent capacity but cannot welcome clients indoors, few restarted in Madrid, as businesses weighed the value of catering to just a few customers.

While most pupils in Spain still need to stay home and study online, some schools reopened in the northern Basque region.

Spain has recorded 28,752 coronavirus deaths and 235,772 cases, although has seen daily fatalities drop to fewer than 100 recently.

The tourism minister’s comments, after similar remarks by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, lifted shares of tourism-related stocks, including hotel operator Melia Hotels which rose 14 per cent in early trading.

In half of the country, including the popular Canary and Balearic Islands, even more restrictions have been lifted as lockdown has moved one notch ahead to a phase 2.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Salif Atojoko (NAN)

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Vietnam’s COVID-19 cases increase to 326

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Vietnam reported one new case of COVID-19 infection on Monday, bringing its total confirmed cases to 326 with zero deaths so far, according to its Ministry of Health.

The latest case is a 20-year-old Vietnamese student who has recently returned to the country from France, said the ministry, noting that she is being treated in southern Ho Chi Minh City.

The country has recorded no local transmission in 39 straight days, according to the ministry.

There are over 15,400 people being monitored and quarantined while as many as 267 patients in the country have totally recovered from the COVID-19, said the ministry.

(XINHUA)

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Fijian parliament okays government guarantee for Fiji Airways

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The Fijian parliament approved on Monday the motion for the government to guarantee the Fiji Airways borrowing of 455 million Fijian dollars (about 203.2 million U.S. dollars).

Fiji’s Civil Aviation Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said in parliament that this includes domestic borrowings of up to 191.1 million Fijian dollars (about 85.3 million U.S. dollars) and off-shore borrowings of up to 117.1 million U.S. dollars. And this will be valid for 3 years effective from May 30 this year.

Fiji Airways, the national airline, is feeling the full brunt of the COVID-19 impacts resulting in job losses, the grounding of flights and this cannot continue, he said, adding that the government guarantee will keep Fiji Airways up and running.

The minister said that despite earning near-zero revenue, the national carrier has to pay monthly fixed costs of 38 million Fijian dollars (about 16.9 million U.S. dollars) and this comprises of aircraft loans and leases of 20.2 million Fijian dollars (about 9 million U.S. dollars), employee costs, fixed payments for aircraft maintenance, and other costs totalling 6 million Fijian dollars (about 2.67 million U.S. dollars).

Fiji Airways will also be exempted from paying the guarantee fee.

Fiji Airways has recently extended the suspension of international flights through to the end of June, and is in the process of reducing scheduled flights for July and August.

A 20 percent permanent salary reduction has been implemented for all retained employees effective June 1, 2020.

Earlier in the day, Fiji Airways announced in a statement that it has decided to lay off more than 700 staff members including all cabin crew and all 79 expatriate pilots from Monday.

Eight expatriate executives have also had their employment terminated, with five expatriate staff remaining, including the CEO Andre Viljoen. The airline has six local executives, who will all retain their jobs and now constitute the majority of the leadership team.

The national carrier said that it has done the workforce adjustments as a consequence of the current and foreseeable operating environment.

“The adjustments are necessary and unavoidable as the COVID-19 crisis endures, causing the further suspension of scheduled international services and ensuring that the airline will receive virtually zero revenue in the coming months,” the national carrier said.

Tourism is the backbone of the Fijian economy, and it is dependent on a strong and sustainable national carrier. Fiji Airways said that it will be vital in leading Fiji’s economic recovery post COVID-19.

(XINHUA)

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Sri Lanka likely to slow repatriation of citizens after rise in COVID-19 cases

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Sri Lanka is likely to slow repatriation of its citizens from overseas after several of those who returned from foreign countries in recent days tested positive for the COVID-19, local media reports quoting the Health Ministry said here Monday.

Director-General of Health Services at the Health Ministry Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that Sri Lanka is still dealing with one active COVID-19 cluster and the government might make a decision to slow the repatriation process after the numbers rise significantly in recent days due to the returning passengers.

“Recently flights were arriving almost once a day. We are still dealing with infections within the naval forces, so a decision may be taken to create a gap,” Dr. Jasinghe said.

According to official figures, Sri Lanka recorded 52 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, one of the highest reported since the outbreak, with 49 of them being local nationals who had recently been repatriated from Kuwait.

Earlier on Monday, seven more people who returned from Kuwait tested positive.

All nationals repatriated from other countries in recent days have been transferred to the quarantine centers set up outside the capital, the health ministry said.

Dr. Jasinghe said that the number of patients may rise further among those who have been repatriated from other countries.

Sri Lanka has so far recorded over 1,100 positive COVID-19 cases out of which nearly 700 have recovered and been discharged.

(XINHUA)

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Sri Lanka grants approval for global airlines, crew to use two airports

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Sri Lanka’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAASL) said on Monday it had granted approval for the Mattala International Airport and the Ratmalana Airport for international airlines and corporate jets to carry out technical landings, refueling and crew rest options as airlines worldwide look to restart operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to CAASL Chairman Upul Dharmadasa, crew members who wish to halt over for a rest can do so at a predetermined nearest hotel to the relevant airport and shall maintain self-quarantine at the respective hotels.

Several health guidelines will, however, have to be maintained including that international crew members shall undergo thermal scanning at the airport and are strictly instructed to self-quarantine in their hotel rooms and have meals only through in-room dining until they operate the next flight out of the airport to their planned destinations under strict instructions given by the Ministry of Health and CAASL.

Crew members have also been advised to wear a mask when entering the airport and also when in contact with others while in the country.

Sri Lanka closed its international airports for passenger arrivals in March in order to prevent a further spread of the COVID-19 as over 1,100 people have been infected to date.

Nine deaths have been reported from the virus in the country, the Health Ministry said.

(XINHUA)

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Kyrgyzstan resumes public transport as mass quarantine lifted

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The Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan was to resume public transport on Monday as the country gradually lifts mass quarantine measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A former Soviet republic that borders China, where the virus originated, largely rural Kyrgyzstan has reported about 1,400 cases on its territory, with 16 deaths directly linked to the virus.

Kyrgyzstan recently began allowing shops and markets to open, with obligatory precautions, such as wearing masks, adding that the rules also apply to those using public transport.

“Masks, disinfection, limited number of passengers, these are obligatory rules that must be continuously monitored,” Deputy Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov said in a statement.

According to the statement, public transport between regions is still to be prohibited.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Poland apologises after PM fails to observe virus rules

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A Polish government spokesman on Monday apologised for Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s failure to observe coronavirus-related social distancing rules in a cafe.

On Friday, Morawiecki posted a tweet showing him sitting at a table with the owners of a cafe in the Silesia region.

They were in close proximity to one another without wearing face masks.

According to the regime put in place after the country’s restaurants were allowed to reopen recently, only families and people who live together are allowed to share a table.

The prime minister’s tweet triggered criticism and mockery.

“The prime minister was misinformed by his staff and for that, I wanted to apologise,” government spokesman Piotr Mueller said.

Poland has been gradually lifting coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks as the number of new cases detected each day remains stable at several hundred.

So far the country has recorded over 21,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and almost 1,000 virus-related fatalities.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Roundup: Afghans’ ceasefire remains intact as President Ghani promises to release 2,000 more Taliban prisoners

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Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has welcomed the three-day ceasefire announced by the Taliban outfit on Saturday and vowed to set free 2,000 more Taliban detainees to expedite the peace process.

The Taliban leadership on Saturday evening, the eve of Eid al-Fitr, declared a three-day ceasefire, ordering its fighters to stay inside their bases and refrain from fighting.

Afghanistan, like other Muslim countries celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Sunday to mark the end of Muslims’ fasting month Ramadan.

In his short address after offering Eid al-Fitr prayer on Sunday, President Ghani welcomed the Taliban announcement for a ceasefire as a goodwill gesture towards peace and promised to set free 2,000 more prisoners.

Both the Taliban and Afghan government have exchanged more than 1,200 prisoners including more than 1,000 Taliban and some 200 security personnel since inking the U.S.-Taliban peace deal on Feb. 29.

The Afghan president, who ordered his forces to resume offensives on the armed group following deadly attacks on maternity in Kabul and funeral ceremony in Nangarhar weeks ago, also instructed his forces to return to a defensive position to support the ceasefire in the country in his speech on Sunday.

Calling upon the Taliban to reciprocate the release of prisoners and observe permanent ceasefire in the country, Ghani said his negotiating team “is ready to initiate dialogue” with the armed group to end the war in Afghanistan.

Since the observance of the ceasefire in Afghanistan on Sunday, no security incident has been reported.

Zabihullah Mujahid who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit told media that the group’s fighters are in defensive posture during the three-day Eid holidays.

Some countries including the United States, Qatar, Pakistan and India have welcomed the three-day ceasefire observed by warring sides during Eid al-Fitr holidays in Afghanistan.

(XINHUA)

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Japan lifts COVID-19 state of emergency 6 days early

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Japan on Monday lifted a state of emergency put in place nationwide since mid-April to stem the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic six days early.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ended the state of emergency in the Greater Tokyo metropolitan area and the northern province of Hokkaido, the last remaining areas of the country on high alert.

The move came six days earlier than expected, with the national state of emergency initially set to run until May 31.

Japan did not impose the kind of strict lockdown seen in Europe and elsewhere.

Residents were only requested to stay at home if possible.

Report say the country’s outbreak appears to be under control, with daily numbers of new cases falling for some time.

Japan has so far confirmed around 17,300 coronavirus cases of infections and around 850 related deaths.

Critics had accused Abe’s government of conducting fewer tests than other countries, though experts argue this is justified given that Japan has seen far fewer deaths and cases with severe symptoms.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Aussie state to open most internal borders as COVID1-19 restrictions ease

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Australia’s State of Western Australia (WA) will lift most of its internal borders on Friday except those protecting biosecurity areas and vulnerable remote indigenous communities.

In a statement released on Monday, the state government said the decision is a part of the government’s road map to safely and gradually reduce COVID-19 restrictions.

The further lift on internal boundaries came after a previous ease made seven days ago that saw the reginal boarders reduced from 13 to 4 and there was no outbreak after that.

While travelling to those remote indigenous communities is still prohibited, the Commonwealth designated biosecurity areas within WA will be reopened from June 5 as the authorities see the local COVID-19 spreading remain controlled.

“Western Australia’s success in curbing the spread of COVID-19 has been world-leading,” the state’s Premier Mark McGowan said.

“I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding, and I urge everyone who can travel to get out there, wander around WA and support local businesses.”

He added the time WA’s boarder opening to other states still need to be decided.

“Based on health advice, Western Australia’s hard border with the rest of the country will remain in place, and will likely be the final restriction lifted.” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Malaysia reports spike in COVID-19 cases after more cases detected in immigration detention facilities

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Malaysia has reported 172 new COVID-19 cases, with 112 of them traced to three immigration detention facilities, pushing the national total to 7,417 cases, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

It marked the first daily increase of over 100 since the Malaysian government relaxed the restrictive measures on May 4.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said at a press briefing that of the new cases, five are imported with the remainder being local transmissions, among which 159 involved non-Malaysian citizens including 112 detainees at three immigration detention facilities.

The authorities first reported a cluster at one immigration detention facility on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur last week, before two more facilities have detected clusters.

Among samples taken from the three facilities, 227 detainees and one local staff were tested positive so far, with more results pending, which is likely to push up the confirmed cases in coming days, said Noor Hisham.

He urged the public not to worry as the facilities are isolated from the society and under control of the authorities.

The Health Ministry also reported a new cluster from a building site in Kuala Lumpur, with 44 cases confirmed so far, 43 of which are non-Malaysian citizens.

Another 34 cases had been released on Monday, bringing the total cured and discharged to 5,979, or 80.6 percent of all cases. Of the 1,323 active cases, eight are currently being held in intensive care and four of those are in need of assisted breathing.

No new deaths had been reported, leaving the total deaths at 115.

(XINHUA)

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Zimbabwe president castigates West for continued interference in affairs of African states

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Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has castigated the West for meddling in the internal affairs of African countries and called on Africans to deepen the culture of democracy and good governance as taught by the continent’s founding fathers.

In his address to the nation on the eve of the 57th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union, Mnangagwa said former colonial powers had no authority to lecture Africa on democracy as the continent had fought to achieve the democracy being enjoyed to this day.

Africans should not be shy to express the rich cultural heritage, languages and identities, he added.

He said Zimbabwe continued to suffer from unwarranted interference and endure illegal sanctions imposed as punishment for reclaiming land.

“However, we are buoyed by the fact that we have re-united with our land, which is now irreversibly reposed into our hands, we its true owners,” he said.

“As we commemorate and celebrate the unity of our continent, we in Zimbabwe deeply thank our SADC region and the whole continent of Africa for standing with us. Africa has rejected and denounced the sanctions against Zimbabwe and the Sudan, urging those responsible for these illegal, heinous measures to immediately lift them without conditionalities.

“They are illegal, unjust, spiteful and undeserved. Above all, they go against the grain and spirit of civilized international relations as espoused in the United Nations Charter. We reiterate that sanctions have no place in modern international relations.”

He said Zimbabwe also continued to pursue robust cooperation with its neighbours and the continent as a whole; subscribing to a fully integrated continent of Africa.

“We must now urgently consolidate the implementation of cross-border projects, to improve our road networks, water, energy and ICT infrastructure, among others. This will inevitably accelerate multi-faceted sustainable development in the region and on the continent,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Zimbabwe leader challenges Africa to emulate founding fathers’ vision as continent celebrates Africa Day

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Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday challenged Africa to pursue the vision of the founding fathers and promote economic integration and sustainable development for the continent.

In his address to the nation marking the 57th anniversary of the founding of the Organization for African Unity, now the African Union, on May 25, 1963, Mnangagwa commended Africans for defending the continent’s independence, state media reported.

“As we celebrate Africa Day, we are jubilant that the vision of our founding fathers has been by and large realized, kept and is jealously defended.

“Above all, that vision continues to be elaborated upon, notably through Agenda 2063 which envisions an economically integrated continent of Africa which will be a global powerhouse by 2063.”

He stressed on Africa’s desire to achieve sustainable development, through concrete manifestations of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity.

With the African Continental Free Trade Area that seeks to create a prosperous future now in force, integration and cooperation at all levels should be scaled up, Mnangagwa said.

Cooperation is imperative in the continent’s quest to achieve food security and to mitigate the impact of climate change and threats posed by disease outbreaks, he said.

“Conscious of Agenda 2063, we must continue to explore and exploit our vast natural resources. The value addition and beneficiation of our various resource endowments must be harnessed to modernize and industrialize Africa’s economies.

“In this ‘Decade of Action,’ let us give impetus to innovation. We must drive all facets of socio-economic development, leveraging on science, technologies as well as our rich heritage, history and cultures,” he said.

The promotion of human development and the economic empowerment of youth and women must result in an Africa that produces goods and services for itself through its own innovations and initiatives, Mnangagwa said.

“The realization of sustainable development and the great vision of an improved standard of living for our people must remain a top priority,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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S. Korea’s Moon urges use of full fiscal capability against ‘wartime-like’ economic crisis

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in, on Monday called for “wartime-like” aggressive fiscal policy to cope with the economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic, dismissing a burgeoning public concern about South Korea’s fiscal soundness.

“The bottom of the global economy is invisible.

“This is indeed an economic wartime situation,” he said during an annual national fiscal strategy meeting at Cheong Wa Dae.

He stressed the need to mobilise all of the government’s fiscal capabilities on par with a wartime fiscal operation.

President Moon Jae-in (C) speaks during the National Fiscal Strategy Meeting at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on May 25, 2020. (Yonhap).

The president urged the speedy allocation of another batch of supplementary budgets, saying South Korea still had room for expansionary fiscal policy in comparison with other member states of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“Our national debt ratio stays at the level of 41 percent,” taking into account the two previous extra budgets against the economic impact from the virus, he pointed out.

The average debt-to-GDP ratio of OECD members reaches 110 percent, he noted.

Moon underscored the importance of swiftly overcoming the serious crisis and seeking the recovery of fiscal health from a long-term perspective, which is a way to prevent the worsening of the debt proportion.

He was emphasising the importance of speedy and timely fiscal measures.

According to him, the government is preparing to submit a third extra budget bill.

He asked the National Assembly to approve it next month.

South Korea has already allocated 23.9 trillion won (US$19.2 billion) of supplementary budgets since the coronavirus outbreak early this year.

“(State) finances should play a role as a treatment for the ongoing economic crisis and a vaccine to strengthen the fundamental and immunity of the postcoronavirus economy,” he said.

Some media here have raised worries about the fiscal soundness of Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

The ruling Democratic Party is reportedly pushing for a third extra budget bill worth over 40 trillion won.

The Moon administration has also announced plans to pour 250 trillion won into helping companies maintain jobs, insulate key industries, support small and medium-sized enterprises, the self-employed and other vulnerable people.

Separately, the government is handing out direct cash payments of up to 1 million won to all of the country’s households.

On the monetary policy side, South Korea’s central bank slashed the benchmark interest rate by 0.5 percentage point to a record low of 0.75 percent in March.

Many analysts predict the Bank of Korea will cut it once again this week.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Roundup: Tokyo stocks close higher on hopes for full economic restart

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Tokyo stocks closed higher Monday on hopes that Japan’s economy will be fully reopened as the government is poised to lift the remaining coronavirus-related state of emergency in Tokyo and nearby regions.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gained 353.49 points, or 1.73 percent, from Friday to close the day at 20,741.65.

The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, meanwhile, added 24.40 points, or 1.65 percent, to finish at 1,502.20.

Stocks recovered lost ground after retreating over the past two trading days, as investors’ risk appetite returned on expectations the government’s lifting of the state of emergency for Tokyo and four other prefectures would lead to a significant rise in economic activity.

The greater Tokyo area accounts for a significant percentage of Japan’s overall population and hence consumption, so eased restrictions on business activities and people’s movements amid a decline in coronavirus cases is a clear boon for Japan’s recession-hit economy, market analysts here said.

“The greater Tokyo area has 30 percent of Japan’s population and likely accounts for about half of its personal consumption, so opening it up will clearly help the economy. It is a bit earlier than expected and the opening is quite broad,” John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management, was quoted as saying.

Local brokers, meanwhile, said that cyclical issues like steelmakers and shipping lines found favor on hopes for Japan’s economic restart, while air transportation issues also rallied on expectations the easing of the virus emergency would see more domestic demand in the short term.

As such, Nippon Steel added 2.7 percent, while Kobe Steel climbed 3.5 percent. JFE Holdings, for its part, ended the day 4.0 percent higher.

Rising shipping stocks included Mitsui O.S.K. Lines advancing 3.5 percent and Kawasaki Kisen gaining 1.9 percent.

Japan Airlines surged 9.4 percent, while ANA Holdings also drew buying on hopes for increased patronage, ending the day 7.6 percent higher.

Similarly, rail transportation issues gained on hopes the eased emergency virus restrictions would lead to an increase in passengers commuting to work again, with West Japan Railway climbing 5.6 percent, while East Japan Railway closed 5 percent higher.

By the close of play, air and land transportation, and real estate-linked issues comprised those that gained the most, and issues that rose outpaced those that fell by 1,857 to 259 on the First Section, while 54 ended the day unchanged.

On the main section on Monday, 1.002 billion shares changed hands, dropping from Friday’s volume of 1.229 billion shares.

The turnover on the first trading day of the week came to 1.737 billion yen (16.127 billion U.S. dollars).

(XINHUA)

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“Significant” Australian bushfires increasing in frequency: experts

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Head of climate monitoring at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) Karl Braganza has warned that the devastating 2019-20 bushfires were not a “one-off event.”

Braganzaon on Monday fronted the first day of hearings for the landmark Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

Braganza said that since 2003 every jurisdiction in Australia has experienced “really significant fire events,” the frequency of which “seem to be increasing.”

“Since the Canberra 2003 fires, every jurisdiction in Australia has seen some really significant fire events that have challenged what we do to respond to them and have really challenged what we thought fire weather looked like preceding this period,” he said.

“These large fire events when you look back over the 19th and 20th century were not as frequent as they were this century.”

More than 10 million hectares of land were burned by the bushfires, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison dubbed the “black summer”, killing more than 30 people and destroying thousands of homes and businesses.

Morrison established the royal commission in February with a focus on Australia’s preparedness for natural disasters and improving natural disaster coordination.

Helen Cleugh, a senior principal research scientist from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), said that climate change was interacting with and exacerbating previous weather systems in a way never seen before, according to The Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“This means that understanding the interaction between climate variability and these drivers and climate change is very important for building preparedness for the changing nature of climate risks into the future,” she said.

“Perhaps put more simply, climate change means that the past is no longer a guide to future climate-related impacts and risks.”

(XINHUA)

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