Bollywood Oscars delayed over coronavirus as Bhutan bans tourists


  • India
  • Friday, 06 Mar 2020

Indian actress Diya Mirza attending the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) press Conference for the 21st Edition of NEXA IIFA Weekend & Awards 2020, in Mumbai. The awards, dubbed Bollywood's Oscars, has been postponed due to Covid-19 fears, organisers announced on Friday. - AFP

NEW DELHI: Bhutan imposed a two-week ban on tourists, India's biggest film awards were postponed, and countries elsewhere in Asia imposed a slew of travel restrictions to combat a spike in Covid-19 (coronavirus) cases on Friday (March 6).

The small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which relies on high-end tourism, had earlier confirmed its first case of coronavirus, that of 76-year-old US tourist who travelled from neighbouring India.

"The government has imposed a complete two-week ban on all incoming tourists with immediate effect," Bhutanese Health Minister Dechen Wangmo told repo.

Multiple countries have imposed entry bans only on tourists from countries where the virus is most prevalent, such as China, South Korea, Italy and Iran, rather than impose a blanket ban.

Tourists with booked tours and visas will have to postpone or cancel their trips, Dechen Wangmo said. Bhutanese coming from overseas will be screened and quarantined if need be, she added.

Tourism is one of the major sources of foreign exchange for the country: In 2018, a total of 274,097 foreign individuals visited Bhutan earning the country 85 million dollars.

The government also announced the closure of several schools and educational institutes and deferred conferences and seminars for two weeks.

Japan will void millions of visas from Monday for Chinese and South Korean visitors to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported on Friday, citing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo.

Visitors from China and South Korea are also requested not to use public transportation in Japan.

There are no regulations for mandatory self quarantine in Thailand yet but health officials there said on Friday they will introduce measures in the next few days that will require those travelling from China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Italy, and Iran to submit mandatory health reports. Failure to do so could result in punishments.

Meanwhile, in India, the International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA), dubbed Bollywood's Oscars, has been postponed due to fears about the coronavirus outbreak, organisers announced on Friday.

The three-day awards ceremony scheduled for the end of the month was being deferred "with due regard to the growing concerns around the spread of Covid-19 virus and keeping the health and safety of IIFA's fans and the general community at large," the IIFA said.

The event - the biggest of the year for India's massive movie industry - was due to be held in the central state of Madhya Pradesh from March 27-29.

The total number of confirmed cases in India rose to 31, after a person from Delhi who had travelled from Thailand and Malaysia tested positive, the Health Ministry said. Sixteen Italian tourists were among those infected, pushing authorities to step up preventive measures.

South Korea reported another significant increase in infections of the new coronavirus on Friday, with figures showing 518 new cases over the past day and seven more deaths. This brought the total cases to 6,284 and the death toll up to 42, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The majority of the cases were concentrated in the south-eastern city of Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province, the KCDC said.

Malaysia on Friday recorded by far its biggest daily increase in positive coronavirus diagnoses, with the national caseload jumping from 55 to 83, according to the Health Ministry.

The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry reported a tripling of demand for medical masks while organizers announced the postponement of hot air balloon festival scheduled to take place in administrative capital Putrajaya from March 19-22.

Taiwan has asked at least 103 people to enter home quarantine because they came into close contact with a visiting Australian musician who was later found to have the coronavirus.

The Philippines reported the first local transmission of the new coronavirus in the country, after a 62-year-old man with no travel history tested positive for the disease.

The man was admitted to hospital with "severe pneumonia" on March 1, and tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

"He has no known history of travel outside of the country," he added.

Two more people have tested positive for the new coronavirus in Indonesia, bringing confirmed cases in the country to four, an official said.

The two patients are both Indonesians in their 30s and had contact with the first person tested positive for the virus, said Health Ministry spokesman Achmad Yurianto.

North Korea claims to have released 221 foreigners from quarantine. They were among the 380 foreigners who had previously been isolated and placed under strict medical surveillance, state media reported on Friday. No further details were given.

So far, no cases of infection have been officially reported from North Korea. - dpa/Asian News Malaysia
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