Asian Insider, Dec 23: Covid-19 creeps back; China cheers as Germany leaves UNSC

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

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In today's bulletin: In today's bulletin: From Thailand to Taiwan, Covid-19 creeping back in places thought to have conquered outbreaks; 'Good riddance', says China as Germany leaves UN Security Council; A bitter vaccine history means hurdles for Japan's Covid-19 fight; Japan government adviser pressured Harvard with talk of probe before Toshiba vote; Hang Seng proposes major overhaul of Hong Kong stock index

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The sudden re-emergence of Covid-19 in places with the world's best records for handling the pandemic is sending a discouraging message to health officials.

Taiwan reported its first case since April on Tuesday (Dec 22), ending what was the world's longest virus-free streak, while Thailand saw 427 new cases, a staggering jump for a country that as recently as September had gone 100 days without a domestic infection.

The re-emergences occurred as other parts of the region lauded for their virus control also came under pressure with the onset of winter.

The re-emergence of the virus may see some restrictions on movement in these places return.

The Asia-Pacific region has largely avoided the unbridled outbreaks that continue to dog the United States and parts of Europe, but the pandemic's persistence elsewhere means it can be reintroduced to places that have quelled cases locally.

Here's more:

Keep calm, Taiwan says after its first local Covid-19 case in 8 months

Sydney nervous as pre-Christmas Covid-19 outbreak prompts calls for tougher response


China has accused Germany of abusing the United Nations Security Council to launch malicious attacks on other members "in an attempt to poison the working atmosphere", just as Germany finishes a two-year term on the 15-member council at the end of this month.

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, during his last scheduled UN Security Council meeting, appealed to China to free two detained Canadians for Christmas, prompting China's deputy UN envoy to respond: "Out of the bottom of my heart: Good riddance."

Mr Heusgen also used the Security Council meeting to advise Russia's deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy to read certain articles about Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who said he had tricked a Russian secret agent into disclosing details of a botched plot to kill him.

Read more online:

'Enough is enough': China attacks US at UN Security Council meeting

China ready to boost cooperation with Germany, including on Covid-19 vaccine: Xi

Canada PM Trudeau shuts out China again by rejecting Arctic gold deal


A tense public history with vaccines and a cautious approval process have some concerned over how quickly Japan can return to normal after the coronavirus pandemic, even though the government has reached agreements to secure more coronavirus vaccines than it needs and legislation has been passed to distribute them for free.

The government now faces a tricky balancing act: trying to move quickly to approve the jabs in order to restore the economy to full health, while avoiding creating the impression of a rush job.

In a separate development, Singapore became the first nation in Asia to secure doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, just weeks after Britain and the United States received theirs.

Read more:

Pfizer seeks approval for rolling out its vaccine in Japan

Chief of Japanese pharma firm urges transparency in coronavirus vaccine roll-out

Identify, investigate, negotiate: How Singapore took steps to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines


A Japanese government adviser told the Harvard University endowment fund that its vote at Toshiba Corp's annual shareholders' meeting could be subject to a regulatory probe should it vote against the firm's management, sources said.

The United States university abstained from voting as a result, though it later learnt there was no basis for any probe.

The alleged pressure from Mr Hiromichi Mizuno, special adviser to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), is at odds with Japan's push for improved corporate governance and adds attention to a meeting that has drawn shareholder complaints.

Here's more:

What happened to 'Made in Japan' - the byword for industrial quality?

Corporate fraud is not a Japanese disease


Hang Seng Indexes is considering wide-ranging changes to Hong Kong's stock benchmark that would dilute the influence of its largest companies, according to a 16-page consultation paper released on Tuesday (Dec 22). The sweeping proposal comes amid significant changes within the city's stock market, as a wave of Chinese megacaps choose the financial hub as a preferred venue to sell shares.

More to read:

China's tougher delisting rules send weakest stocks plunging

Investors swap China holdings from Wall Street to Hong Kong as delisting threat brews


KASHMIR VOTES, AND INDIA HAILS IT AS NORMALCY IN A DOMINATED REGION: Votes were counted on Tuesday (Dec 22) in the first local elections in Kashmir since the Indian government waged a harsh political and security crackdown in the restive region last year. Officials hailed the solid turnout as a sign that democracy has been restored, but little in Kashmir feels normal.

GOOGLE, FACEBOOK COORDINATED ANTI-TRUST RESPONSE: Google and Facebook worked together to help fend off an anti-trust investigation into the two tech giants which dominate digital advertising, according to a state lawsuit. The case filed last week was among three separate actions filed by state and federal anti-trust enforcers against Google. while a separate case has been filed against Facebook over its acquisition of two rival messaging applications.

SOUTH KOREA SCRAMBLES JETS AS CHINESE, RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT ENTER AIR DEFENCE ZONE: South Korea scrambled fighter jets in response to an intrusion into its air defence identification zone by 19 Russian and Chinese military aircraft on Tuesday (Dec 22). Four Chinese warplanes entered the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (Kadiz) followed by 15 Russian aircraft, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

That's it for today. Hope today's bulletin was interesting for you. Thanks for reading and we'll be back with you on Jan 4, 2021. Happy holidays!


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