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Asia shares stumble, sterling at mercy of yet another vote

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MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .

Japan’s Nikkei led the retreat with a fall of 1.2 per cent as data showed domestic machinery orders fell in January at the fastest pace in four months.

Shanghai blue chips slipped 0.5 per cent following two days of gains. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 were off 0.2 per cent and spread betters pointed to opening losses for the main European bourses.

Risk appetites had soured after British lawmakers crushed Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union divorce deal, forcing parliament to decide within days whether to back a no-deal Brexit or seek a last-minute delay.

Lawmakers voted against May’s amended Brexit deal by 391 to 242 as her last-minute talks with EU chiefs on Monday to assuage her critics’ concerns ultimately proved fruitless.

Parliament will vote later Wednesday on whether to leave the EU with no deal, and if that fails, a further vote on Thursday will decide whether to extend the Brexit deadline.

“The vote today seems certain to go against the government as well,” said David de Garis, a director of economics and market at National Australia Bank.

“Assuming the Thursday vote finds a majority in favor of an extension – as we expect – it will likely be of some comfort to sterling,” he added. “It’s still a fast moving environment, with political pressure at understandably extreme levels.”

The pound could do with some comfort after a wild couple of sessions. It was last at 1.3089 dollar, having been as high as 1.3296 dollar and as low as 1.3017 dollar so far this week.

On Wall Street, Boeing Co (BA.N) shed another 6.1 per cent for its biggest two-day drop since June 2009, as more countries grounded the company’s 737 MAX 8 planes following Sunday’s crash in Ethiopia, the second fatal crash in months.

The drop in Boeing pushed the Dow down 0.38 per, even as the S&P 500 gained 0.30 per cent and the Nasdaq added 0.44 per cent.

A soft U.S. inflation report for February burnished bonds, while tarnishing the dollar. Annual consumer price inflation slowed to its lowest since September 2016 at 1.5 per cent.

The data merely reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve will stay patient on rates and could even sound more dovish at its policy meeting next week.

Yields on U.S. 10-year notes US10YT=RR duly declined to a 10-week low at 2.596 per cent, while the dollar idled at 97.000 .DXY against a basket of currencies.

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Accelerating increase of COVID-19 cases seen in South Asian countries as Bangladesh records biggest daily jump

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Asia-Pacific countries are still facing a growing outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday as Bangladesh recorded its highest daily increase, while India became the seventh country in the world in terms of infections.

Bangladesh confirmed 2,911 new cases, the highest daily rise since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country on March 8, bringing the total to 52,445.

A total of 37 more people including 33 men and four women died in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 709.

Bangladesh had earlier recorded highest 2,545 cases in a 24-hour period on Sunday.

India’s federal health ministry on Tuesday morning reported 204 new deaths and 8,171 positive cases during the past 24 hours across the country, taking the number of deaths to 5,598 and total cases to 198,706.

In Indonesia, the confirmed cases in Indonesia rose by 609 within one day to 27,549, and the death toll increased by 22 to 1,663.

The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines climbed to 18,997 after the Department of Health reported 359 more infections on Tuesday.

The number of recoveries further climbed to 4,063 after 84 more patients have recovered, and the death toll also increased to 966 after 6 more deaths were reported.

Malaysia reported 20 new cases, pushing the national total to 7,877, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Of the new cases, 15 are imported cases while the five local transmissions were made up of 3 foreign nationals and two locals.

No new death is reported with the total standing at 115.

South Korea recorded 38 more infections compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Tuesday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,541.

The daily caseload stayed above 30 for two straight days due to small cluster infections from religious gatherings in the metropolitan area.

New Zealand announced no new case on Tuesday for 11 consecutive days, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases staying at 1,504, according to the Ministry of Health.

(XINHUA)

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London to offer COVID-19 risk assessments to Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers: mayor

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Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff in London will have access to risk assessments after reports showing they have a higher risk of being affected by COVID-19, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced Monday.

The risk assessments — which will be open to those working across the Greater London Authority family, including Transport for London, The Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade — will consider the physical and mental health needs of all vulnerable staff, including BAME, older and those with pre-existing conditions, said City Hall in a statement.

“Far from being a great leveller, the coronavirus crisis has exposed the unacceptable major inequalities in our society,” Khan said.

“This pandemic must be a wake-up call to our country and we need the Government to show their commitment to tackling these great injustices and immediately commission an independent public inquiry that will properly address this issue,” he added.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white men and women, after taking into account age and socio-demographic factors.

City Hall published Monday a new research to further understand this disproportionate impact, comparing coronavirus cases in London to a range of measures including ethnicity, job security, poverty, deprivation, age and a range of health conditions.

The study from City Hall’s Intelligence Unit shows the highest COVID-19 death rate in London is an area of Newham, where 82 percent of the population are BAME, one in three is in insecure employment and there are high levels of deprivation, obesity and diabetes.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Coronavirus cases rocketing in South Asia as India becomes 7th worst-hit country due to COVID-19

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The number of COVID-19 cases is rocketing in South Asia on Monday as India became the seventh worst-hit country due to COVID-19, and in Bangladesh cases neared 50,000.

India’s federal health ministry on Monday morning reported 230 new deaths due to COVID-19 and 8,392 more positive cases during the past 24 hours across the country. This was so far the highest single-day spike in the cases.

The ministry said the total number of cases in the country reached 190,535 with 5,394 deaths.

India became the seventh worst-hit country due to COVID-19 pandemic as the World Health Organisation COVID-19 tracker had placed the country on rank seven in the list.

Bangladesh reported 2,381 new cases, dipping from Sunday’s high of 2,545.

“A total of 2,381 new COVID-19 positive cases and 22 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh,” senior Health Ministry official Nasima Sultana told a media briefing on Monday afternoon.

“The total number of positive cases is now 49,534 and death toll stands currently at 672,” she added.

With the confirmation of 226 new cases on Monday, Nepal has seen the highest single day spike of COVID-19 cases, and the total tally has surged to 1,798.

Afghanistan reported 545 new COVID-19 cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to 15,750 cases, the country’s Ministry of Public Health confirmed.

Eight COVID-19 patients succumbed to the virus, taking the number of people who lost their lives to 265 since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country in February.

The number of people recovered stands at 1,428 after 100 patients recovered during the period.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines climbed to 18,638 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 552 more infections on Monday.

The DOH said in a daily bulletin that the number of recoveries further climbed to 3,979 after 70 more patients have survived the disease. The death toll also increased to 960 after three more patients have succumbed to the viral disease, the DOH added.

COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 467 within one day to 26,940, with the death toll adding by 28 to 1,641, Achmad Yurianto, a Health Ministry official, said at a press conference.

According to him, 329 more people had been discharged from hospitals, making the total number of recovered patients stand at 7,637.

South Korea reported 35 more cases compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Monday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,503.

After peaking at 79 on Thursday, the daily caseload continued to fall to 27 on Sunday, but it rebounded on Monday amid small cluster infections from religious gatherings in the metropolitan area.

One more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 271. The total fatality rate stood at 2.36 percent.

Malaysia has gone into 10 days without any new COVID-19 deaths, the Health Ministry said, leaving the total deaths so far at 115.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said Malaysia reported 38 new cases, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 7,857.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar has risen to 228, with four more confirmed cases reported, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Of the newly confirmed cases, all patients are from Yangon region who were under quarantine after their recent arrival from India.

A total of 138 patients have recovered from the disease and six deaths were reported so far.

New Zealand reported no new case on Monday for 10 consecutive days, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases staying at 1,504, according to the Ministry of Health.

The total number of confirmed cases reported to the World Health Organization remained at 1,154, said a ministry statement.

Laos reported no new case for 50 consecutive days, with the total number of confirmed cases in Laos unchanged at 19.

(XINHUA)

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Asia-Pacific region continues keeping watchful eye on COVID-19 pandemic

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Asia-Pacific region continued to pay close attention to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday.

Bangladesh reported 40 new COVID-19 deaths and 2,545 new patients in just one day – by far the country’s biggest one-day tally since the crisis began in the country on March 8.

The highest single-day rise in deaths came just a day after the country reported 28 COVID-19 fatalities.

According to the official, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 47,153 on Sunday with the rise of the new 2,545 cases.

Malaysia reported 57 new cases on Sunday, pushing the national total to 7,819, the Health Ministry said.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said at a press briefing that 10 of the new cases are imported, with 47 more being local transmissions, of which 43 are foreign nationals from a cluster at an immigration detention facility and three new clusters in the central Pahang state.

The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 700 within one day to 26,473, with the death toll adding by 40 to 1,613, Achmad Yurianto, a Health Ministry official, said at a press conference here Sunday.

According to him, 293 more people had been discharged from hospitals, making the total number of recovered patients stand at 7,308.

Lao National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control is keen to treat the last three infected cases, so they can be discharged from the hospital as soon as possible.

The remaining three patients have light symptoms and they will be released from hospital if they test negative twice for the virus, Lao Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Meaungpak told a press conference in Lao capital Vientiane on Sunday.

As of Sunday, Laos has tested 6,928 suspected cases with 19 cases tested positive, and 16 patients have recovered.

India’s federal health ministry on Sunday morning said 193 new deaths and an additional 8,380 positive cases were reported since Monday in the country, taking the number of deaths to 5,164 and total cases to 182,143.

South Korea reported 27 more cases of COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Sunday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,468.

The daily caseload fell below 30 in five days. The confirmed cases rose fast in recent days due to a cluster infection at a logistics center of local e-commerce operator Coupang in Bucheon, west of the capital Seoul.

One more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 270.

New Zealand has reported no new case for nine days in a row, said a statement of the New Zealand Ministry of Health on Sunday.

New Zealand‘s combined total number of confirmed and probable cases stays at 1,504, of which 1,154 are confirmed, it said.

The country currently has 1,481 people reported as having recovered from COVID-19, unchanged from Saturday. The death toll remained at 22.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 506 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 34,366.

Of the newly confirmed cases, five were cases in the community, and 501 were work permit holders residing in dormitories. There were no imported cases.

The number of cases that had passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection was 23.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: COVID-19 cases in Asia-Pacific region continue to rise as India reports biggest daily jump of 7,466 new cases

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The number of COVID-19 infections in the Asia-Pacific region continues to rise on Friday as India reported the biggest daily jump of 7,466 new cases.

India’s federal health ministry on Friday morning reported 175 more deaths and 7,466 new positive cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic, taking the number of deaths to 4,706 and total cases to 165,799.

This is the biggest spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country so far.

Bangladesh confirmed 2,523 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the highest daily rise since the start of the pandemic in the country on March 8, bringing the total to 42,844.

Professor Nasima Sultana, a senior health ministry official, told an online media briefing in Dhaka that “the total number of positive cases is now 42,844 and the death toll stands currently at 582.”

South Korea reported 58 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Friday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,402.

The daily caseload rose sharply for the past three days, recording 79 on Thursday and 40 on Wednesday each.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has risen to 64,028 with 1,317 deaths, according to the data updated by the country’s health ministry Friday morning.

A total of 2,636 new cases and 57 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, the statistics revealed.

The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 678 within one day to 25,216, with the death toll adding by 24 to 1,520, Achmad Yurianto, a Health Ministry official, said at a press conference on Friday.

According to him, 252 more people had been discharged from hospitals, as the total number of recovered patients stood at 6,492.

Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry has registered 623 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, totaling the number of patients infected with the virus to 13,659 in the country, a spokesman for the ministry Tawhid Shakohmand said Friday.

Malaysia reported 103 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, a significant rebound from 10 cases a day earlier, pushing the national total to 7,732, the Health Ministry said.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said at a press briefing that of the new reported cases, 96 were local transmissions and seven were imported cases. Among the local cases, 84 were foreign nationals, with 53 and 24 foreign workers from two clusters.

The number of cases on board the live animal export ship, Al Kuwait, which is docked in the Australian state of Western Australia (WA), jumped to 20 on Friday, with eight new positive tests.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook revealed that all 48 crew have been tested and the 10 who remained on the ship all returned negative results.

(XINHUA)

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Robot delivers meals to customer at Asian restaurant in Vienna, Austria

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Robots deliver meals at an Asian restaurant in Vienna, Austria, on May 28, 2020. An Asian restaurant in Vienna uses robots to deliver meals in order to reduce unnecessary contact between waiters and customers during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Xinhua/Guo Chen)

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Roundup: U.S. military biologists stretch tentacles across Central Asia: media

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Washington has entangled countries close to Russia and China, including those in Central Asia, with networks of military bio laboratories, the Russian “Military Political Analytics” online magazine has said.

Washington rejected the protocol to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, which involves the establishment of mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of obligations under the convention, it said in a recent article.

Moreover, in case of leakage of biological weapons from dual-use labs in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the United States will transfer its responsibility to the host countries, which de jure control those facilities, the magazine said.

In 2004, the Pentagon‘s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), as part of a joint biology collaboration program with Uzbekistan, began creating a network of labs for controlling the spread of infectious diseases in that country, according to the magazine.

The first national diagnostic lab in Uzbekistan was opened by the DTRA in 2007 in Tashkent with the support of the United States Agency for International Development, with analogous labs opened in Andijan and Fergana in 2013, and in 2016 in Urgench.

In addition, the United States funded the modernization of diagnostic labs deployed on the basis of the Uzbek Republican Institute of Microbiology, the Defense Ministry‘s Central Military Hospital, the Research Institute of Virology and the Center for the Prevention of Quarantine and Highly Infectious Infections of the Ministry of Health.

Currently, a number of other facilities are also under U.S. control, including sanitary surveillance stations in Andijan, Urgench, Fergana and the veterinary center of Uzbekistan, the magazine said.

The article noted that outbreaks of infections have begun to be observed in Uzbekistan in places where U.S. military biological facilities operated.

In August 2011, an unknown disease suddenly flared up in the Tashkent region, and the symptoms of the disease were very similar to cholera. In 2012, the country was hit by a new disease, which almost simultaneously killed more than 10 people.

In the spring of 2017, a chickenpox epidemic broke out in Uzbekistan, which affected a large number of adults. Since January 2019, 279 cases of measles have been reported. Also, meningococcal infections are rising in the Central Asian country.

Anna Popova, head of Russia’s consumer rights and human well-being watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, at a meeting of the heads of the Security Councils of the CIS countries, expressed concern over the outbreaks of previously unknown infections in places where the U.S. military labs had opened, the magazine said.

In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, there are no DTRA facilities, but Washington works on biosafety issues in the two countries through its structures, non-government organizations (NGOs) or “scientific partnerships.”

Through such “scientific” partnerships, the Pentagon and the intelligence services of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries have gained access to top-secret technologies, intellectual property products of scientists from former Soviet Union countries and promising areas for future research, the magazine said.

(XINHUA)

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AirAsia Indonesia forecasts net profit to tumble in Q1 due to COVID-19

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AirAsia Indonesia estimated that its net profit would plunge in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic has caused a declining number of passengers.

The budget airline forecast its net profit would deeply fall by 75 percent from that of the January to March period annualized, media reported on Thursday.

The projected fall was fueled by the edging down of consolidated revenues, which are expected to plunge by 30 percent to 50 percent annually.

To pare down the risks of the virus pandemic, the airline has applied a number of strategies including that to apply a tight control on spending.

The coronavirus has been ravaging the aviation industry in Indonesia, which is exacerbated by the ban on flights across the country.

(XINHUA)

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African swine fever costs Asia between 55 bln and 130 bln U.S. dollars: ADB experts

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African swine fever (ASF) has cost Asia between 55 billion U.S. dollars and 130 billion U.S. dollars, including as much as 77 billion U.S. dollars in lost revenue, according to Asian Development Bank (ADB) experts.

“A deadly viral epidemic is devastating pig populations in Asia, threatening livelihoods and food security and costing economies billions of dollars,” said Najibullah Habib, the health specialist of the ADB’s East Asia Regional Department, and Thomas Weaver, an agriculture and livestock consultant of the Manila-based bank, in a recent article published in the Asia Development Blog.

“African swine fever is driving home the continued importance of strengthening the capacity of nations to detect and respond effectively to emerging diseases,” the experts said.

The first confirmed outbreak of African swine fever in Asia was reported in August 2018 and since then it has spread to through Southeast Asia and other parts of Asia and the Pacific.

The highly virulent strain of the virus circulating in Asia has an estimated case fatality rate of 90 percent to 95 percent in pigs with no effective vaccine.

“The responses to the (ASF) virus have been severe by necessity. Widespread culling has been implemented in most countries. Movement bans and market closures have been enacted,” the experts further said.

“Heightened monitoring has been implemented to the degree feasible. Compensation systems have been established to varying degrees. Extensive awareness-raising campaigns have been developed, encouraging reporting of any suspicious disease and improved biosecurity measures,” the experts added.

The experts added that the true burden of the disease is unlikely to ever be fully known.

“The paucity of accurate production data, likelihood of misdiagnosis and underreporting, political incentives, complexity of assessing indirect costs and the difficulties of accounting for impacts on human health and nutrition, loss of livelihoods and less tangible impacts such effects on social capital, make accurate assessment problematic,” the experts said.

However, they said the assessment of the impact is critical to policy-making and the provision of resources to mitigate risk and control disease.

“Our research indicates that direct costs of African swine fever after one year was 55 billion U.S. dollars to 130 billion U.S. dollars with 28 billion U.S. dollars to 46 billion U.S. dollars attributed to initial losses to disease and culling, 4 billion U.S. dollars to 7 billion U.S. dollars to the cost of replacement breeding animals, and 23 billion U.S. dollars to 77 billion U.S. dollars in lost revenue,” the article said.

ASF is harmless to humans but highly contagious and fatal for pigs as there is no known cure.

(XINHUA)

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