Asian nations launch entry bans, close schools to slow coronavirus

  • AseanPlus News
  • Sunday, 15 Mar 2020

People are hardly venturing out as seen in a general view of Hafte Tir square in Iran's capital Teheran, which is usually packed with revellers during the weekend. Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries grappling with Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak issues in Asia. - AFP

SINGAPORE/BANGKOK/KUALA LUMPUR: Countries across Asia were tightening their borders on Saturday night in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, with travel restrictions and suspended flights becoming the norm.

Bangladesh on Sunday (March 14) decided to suspend all passenger flights to European countries, excluding Britain, until the end of the month after two more coronavirus cases were detected in the country.

New Zealand, Cambodia and Taiwan were among the countries in the Asia Pacific region to announce new travel restrictions on Saturday.

Cargo flights, however, will not be affected, according to the decision. There are five confirmed cases in the South Asian country.

Every person entering New Zealand from Sunday will have to self-isolate for 14 days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference. She added that only travellers from the Pacific Islands would be exempt from the measures.

She asked New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas and said cruise ships would not be allowed to dock in the country's ports until June 30.

New Zealand so far has six confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and has been able to trace all contacts of those infected, Ardern said.

Elsewhere, Indonesian Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi has tested positive for coronavirus and is being treated at the Central Army Hospital in Jakarta, according to State Secretary Pratikno.

The minister's Twitter feed shows he recently met the Dutch minister of infrastructure and water management, Cora Van Nieuwenhuizen, to discuss cooperation in the transport sector.

The news came as authorities in the capital, Jakarta, said they would close schools for two weeks starting Monday and the number of confirmed cases in the country jumped to 96, with five deaths.

India's government on Sunday declared a "notified disaster," a mechanism which makes it easier for regional governments to draw on funds set aside for disaster response.

Funds can be used to compensate close relatives of any people who die from the virus, said the Home Ministry. So far 84 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the country of 1.3 billion people.

Meanwhile, Malaysia confirmed another 190 new cases, taking the national total to 428, while tallies in the Philippines jumped to 111 cases and eight deaths.

Authorities announced a curfew in metropolitan Manila for 30 days, starting Sunday, as part of the lockdown ordered by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Thousands of people began to leave Manila to go home to their provinces before flights and bus trips to and from the capital are suspended on Sunday.

In Cambodia, the health ministry on Saturday announced a 30-day entry ban on foreign travellers from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the United States that will take effect on Tuesday. Cambodia has seven confirmed cases of Covid-19, six of whom are foreigners.

The country also ordered schools closed in the capital Phnom Penh and a second city in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19, local media reported.

The Education Ministry said all public and private schools that follow the state curriculum in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap City - home of the world-famous Angkor Wat and surrounding temples - would be closed, effective immediately, local news outlet VOD reported.

In Taiwan, an official travel alert was announced and set to begin on Tuesday for the 26 countries in Europe's Schengen Area, Britain, Ireland and Dubai.

Officials urged Taiwanese citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to those countries and said inbound passengers would be subject to 14-day home quarantine. Taiwan has reported 53 cases of Covid-19, including one death.

Vietnam announced a 30-day ban on foreign travellers entering the country on Sunday. The ban will apply to visitors from 26 countries in Europe's Schengen Area and Britain.

Anyone who has visited those countries within 14 days of arriving in Vietnam will also be barred entry, the Foreign Ministry said. Vietnam has so far recorded 47 coronavirus cases.

In Pakistan, where 28 cases have been confirmed, authorities decided to close all educational institutions for three weeks and close the country's borders with Iran and Afghanistan.

In neighbouring Afghanistan, which has 11 cases, all sporting events have been banned. The country also cancelled traditional Nowruz ceremonies to mark the Persian New Year in Balkh and the Afghan capital Kabul.

Thousands of people crossing the Iranian border are the main concern regarding the spread of the virus. - dpa/Asian News Network
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