Asia Today: China to curtail assembly; Australia eases up

By Associated Press 16 May 2020, 12:00AM

BANGKOK (AP) — A Chinese official confirmed that the annual legislative session will be curtailed to protect public health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Zhang Yesui, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, did not indicate how much it would be shortened. He told the official Xinhua News Agency that the agenda and schedule would be approved before the session starts in Beijing on May 22.

The congress, delayed from March because of the outbreak, normally lasts about two weeks. Police have announced a ban on drones and other low-flying objects because of the May 20-28 meeting, so this year’s could run about a week.

China’s ruling Communist Party decided to go ahead with the meeting of 3,000 delegates after largely stopping the spread of the virus. But some government officials will join breakout sessions with deputies via video link, and news conferences will also be conducted remotely by video.

Small clusters of new cases are still popping up elsewhere in China. Two more cases were confirmed Friday in one such area, Jilin province in the country’s northeast.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— SOUTH KOREA SEES NIGHTCLUB CASES WANING: South Korean officials have so far confirmed 162 coronavirus cases linked to clubgoers in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, and are expressing cautious hope that infections are beginning to wane. Health Ministry official Son Young-rae on Saturday said the country may have ducked a major surge in transmissions in a region where half of its 51 million people live. Son points out that the daily increase in infections has been within 30 over the past days despite a jump in tests. Son said 46,000 people have so far been tested following a slew of infections linked to clubs and other nightspots in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district. “It’s notable there were no new transmissions in churches, call centers and gyms where virus carriers went to,” said Son. Authorities have expanded anonymous testing after some media described the clubs linked to infections as catering to sexual minorities, which raised concern that people may be discouraged from coming forward in fear of homophobic backlash. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 19 new cases of the coronavirus, 10 of them linked to overseas passengers.

— WARNING AS AUSTRALIA EASES MEASURES: Restrictions put in place to stop the coronavirus from spreading across Australia have eased, but the public was warned to take their newfound freedoms carefully in order to prevent a second wave of the pandemic. States and territories have begun the first of a three-stage process to lift restrictions on outdoor and indoor gatherings and business operations. Australians will get to sit in pubs, cafes and restaurants for the first time in weeks after isolation and social distancing measures kept the lid on infections and COVID-19 deaths. But Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone urged people to remain vigilant because the virus is still present in the community and could flare up. “If we do the wrong things, we risk undoing all the gains that we’ve made,” Batone said. “So, the message is, yes, appreciate all the efforts, appreciate the opportunity to release some of those measures, but let’s not have a party, let’s not go to town.” The number of active cases breached 7,000 on Friday, but the death toll from the pandemic remains at 98, extremely low by international standards.


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By Associated Press 16 May 2020, 12:00AM

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