Abe fuels anger; number of second-time patients rises in South Korea

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “stay home” message has fuelled 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.

The one-minute video released last 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 last Saturday. He is asking people to stay home and reduce interactions by as much as 80 per cent, but he wants non-business closures to wait until effects of the stay home request are evaluated.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike went ahead and asked non-essential businesses such as movie theatres 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 yesterday, and its Governor 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.

A man stands at an empty Asakusa district in Tokyo yesterday. PHOTO: AP

Japan had 7,255 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and 114 deaths, according to the latest figures yesterday.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

MORE SECOND-TIME PATIENTS

South Korea’s top infectious disease expert said the number of patients who tested positive for the COVID-19 for a second time after their initial release from hospitals has increased to 116. Director of the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Jeong Eun-kyeong said yesterday that so far there have not been any confirmed transmissions from patients who tested positive for a second time.

‘QUIET SPREAD’

South Korean officials have raised concerns over a “quiet spread” of the virus, pointing to transmissions at 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.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Sri Lankan authorities have announced that schools will reopen on May 11, while universities will begin to function gradually from May 4. The island nation has been under curfew for the most part since March 20 to stop the spread of the COVID-19. The country has 210 confirmed cases, including seven deaths.

MAKING MASKS

Mask and disinfection wipe producer Wuhan Zonsen said USD50 million in orders from European countries and the United States (US) 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 TRAVELLERS POSITIVE

China reported 108 new cases of COVID-19 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 have 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.