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Abe fuels anger, Chinese mask maker rushing to fill orders

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “stay home” message has fueled anger and accusations that he was insensitive to people who cannot rest at home because the government’s social distancing measures are voluntary and don't come with compensation.

Some people reacting to his message on Twitter said Abe acted like “an aristocrat.” The one-minute video released Sunday shows Abe sitting at home, expressionless, cuddling his dog, reading a book, sipping from a cup and clicking on a remote control. Entertainer Gen Hoshino appeared in part of the video but later said the clip of him strumming on a guitar at home was used without his permission.

Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures last Tuesday and broadened it to nationwide Saturday. He is asking people to stay home and reduce interactions by as much as 80%, but he wants non-business closures to wait until effects of the stay home request are evaluated.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike went ahead and asked non-essential businesses such as hostess bars, movie theaters and schools to close until May 6, with some exceptions, but most other prefectures have fallen behind. Saitama, north of Tokyo, started non-essential business closures Monday, and its Gov. Motohiro Ono said he planned to ask the central government for financial support to compensate for the business closures.

Many Japanese companies are slow to switch to remote work and many people were still commuting to their jobs.

Japan had 7,255 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 114 deaths, according to the latest figures Monday.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— ‘QUIET SPREAD’: South Korean officials have raised concerns over a “quiet spread” of the virus, pointing to transmissions at bars and other leisure facilities that supposedly indicate eased attitudes toward social distancing. Prime Minster Chung Sye-kyun said officials were discussing new guidelines that would allow engagement in certain economic and social activities while also maintaining distance.

— MAKING MASKS: Mask and disinfection wipe producer Wuhan Zonsen says $50 million in orders from European countries and the United States will keep it at full production capacity until June. Chinese exporters are facing stricter quality inspections from regulators after complaints were made of substandard goods being sold abroad.

— MORE TRAVELERS POSITIVE: China reported 108 new cases of coronavirus infection, 98 of them imported. Of the new domestic cases, seven were recorded in the province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia and three in the southern business hub of Guangzhou. China's official totals are now 3,341 deaths among 82,160 people who've tested positive.

— NURSING HOME DEATHS: New Zealand recorded its fifth death from COVID-19 and the third connected with a rest home in Christchurch where several residents and staff are infected. Nursing homes housing elderly and other people most vulnerable to the virus have been troubling hot spots of infection around the globe.

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