02/17/2020, 14.40
ASIA
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China, ASEAN announce first coronavirus summit

Laos will host the meeting next Thursday. Thailand has confirmed 35 cases; Japan; 518; and Singapore, 75. The Covid-19 outbreak will negative impact the city-state’s GDP. The local Catholic Church has suspended all public services indefinitely. Analysts are waiting to see whether China's ties with its neighbours will be affected by restrictions on travel and exchanges.

 

Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Outside of China, 694 cases of the new Covid-19 coronavirus have been confirmed in 25 countries with three deaths.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced this morning that they will meet in Laos in three days to discuss the measures taken by Beijing to contain the emergency. It will be the first large multilateral summit since the beginning of the crisis.

Thailand, which has reported 35 cases, has decided to increase checks on visitors from Japan and Singapore.

Japan plans to limit public gatherings to prevent further spread of the virus. To this end, it has cancelled the Emperor's birthday celebrations and restricted next month's Tokyo marathon to professional runners only. Some 518 people have been infected in Japan, 445 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship alone.

Yesterday, Singapore authorities announced three new cases, bringing the total number to 75. They except the Covid-19 epidemic to have a major impact on the economy of the city-state.

Economic growth for this year is expected to come in at around 0.5 per cent, the mid-point of a new estimated range of between -0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said. The previous forecast range announced last November was 0.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

Singapore’s religious communities are taking steps to counter the outbreak. Some temples and churches are reducing, or completely suspending, services, urging the faithful to follow them online.

Buddhist and Sikh temples are implementing more stringent precautionary measures at places of worship – urging those who are unwell to stay at home, as well as to ramp up cleaning of facilities and common areas.

Last Friday, the Catholic Church announced it was suspending all public services indefinitely. One of the latest confirmed patients had attended Mass at the Catholic Church of Christ the King in Ang Mo Kio, the Ministry of Health said. 

In a pastoral letter signed by Archbishop William Goh, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore noted that temperature-taking “is not a fool-proof screening tool” because people who are asymptomatic can also be carriers of the infection.

A member of ASEAN, Singapore is sending a delegation to the summit Thursday in Vientiane, which will also be attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The meeting follows the concerted effort by Chinese diplomats to counter criticism that Beijing withheld information from the world, and reacted too slowly to the health emergency.

In recent days, the Chinese government criticised some countries for their “overreaction”, which “triggered unnecessary panic”.

Analysts are waiting to see whether China's relations with its neighbours will be influenced by the restrictions on travel and exchanges imposed by some countries to prevent the virus from spreading inside their borders.

Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia are among those that have ordered more stringent measures, effectively preventing the entry of Chinese nationals.

Countries like Pakistan and Cambodia, which have closer ties with China, have refrained from enforcing strict restrictions on visitors from China.

Malaysia has earned China’s gratitude for imposing only a travel ban limited to residents from those areas of China under a quarantine.

Singapore has repeatedly professed support for Beijing, despite its restrictions, which are as strict imposed by the United States.

China has not publicly criticised the city-state, but US media last week reported that the Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned the Singapore ambassador to Beijing to explain the new measures.

The Wall Street Journal claims that the Chinese government summed diplomats from "a number of Asian and Western embassies" for similar reasons.

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