Asian Insider, Feb 13: Coronavirus: Relief measures for small businesses and drivers

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

Hi,

In today’s bulletin: Singapore banks offer loan relief measures for businesses and home owners and how a new diagnostic test has caused coronavirus cases to spike drastically in China.

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SINGAPORE BANKS OFFER LOAN RELIEF MEASURES TO CUSHION CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

In line with lenders in Hong Kong and Singapore that are helping clients from the virus-hit fallout, DBS is offering a six-month debt moratorium on principal repayments for property loans extended to small and medium-sized enterprises in Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as on mortgage loans for home owners in Singapore. United Overseas Bank has also allocated $3 billion of “relief assistance” for its affected Singapore corporate clients, particularly SMEs, to have more flexibility in their cash-flow management.

Meanwhile, Senior Transport Correspondent Christopher Tan reports that cabbies and private-hire drivers will be able to tap a $77 million package to tide them over the sharp drop in business caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus Updates

China Correspondent Elizabeth Law reports that the number of infected people and death toll in China has spiked drastically overnight due to a quicker diagnostic guideline that relies on clinical diagnosis, instead of laboratory tests. Meanwhile, both the party chiefs of Hubei and Wuhan have been replaced.

China: Chinese scientists have put up some 77 clinical trials targeting the pneumonia-causing virus, in a race to find a cure for the new disease.

Vietnam: Villages with 10,000 people close to the nation's capital were placed under quarantine after six people were infected.

Hong Kong:  Major shopping mall landlords in Hong Kong are offering cuts in February rent by as much as 60 per cent to help tenants ride out the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, schools in the city will remain close until March 16

Cruise industry battered: The S$60b sector is under threat after reports of passengers catching the coronavirus.

The Asian Insider Video: US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh interviews Pulitzer-winning science writer Laurie Garrett on how to avoid the new coronavirus.

You can also read his report here.

CONTRACTS WORTH S$596M AWARDED FOR SINGAPORE’S FUTURE JURONG REGION LINE

The Land Transport Authority has awarded three contracts worth $596 million for design and construction work on four Jurong Region Line (JRL) stations. The 24km-long JRL, first announced as part of the Land Transport Master Plan in 2013, extends the reach of the rail network to the Jurong area.

It will be Singapore's seventh MRT line and the first fully elevated line without any underground stations.

See also: The Jurong Region Line will use Korean trains with emergency battery propulsion

AFFAIRS OFFICE CHANGES SIGNAL BEIJING'S UNYIELDING STANCE ON HONG KONG

Hong Kong Correspondent Claire Huang reports the city, which has been plagued by a civil unrest that has spanned more than eight months, will now come under greater scrutiny by the new chief of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) in an indication of Beijing's promise to quell demonstrations and to protect national security.

The appointment of Mr Xia Baolong, is triggered by the handling, or lack thereof, of the ongoing protests that have battered the city's economy and caused business confidence to plunge.

Read more: Hong Kong protesters, on pause, see coronavirus fuelling their movement

OVER 400 MILLION SOCIAL MEDIA USERS IN INDIA SET TO LOSE THEIR ANONYMITY

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok will have to reveal users' identities if Indian government agencies ask them to, according to the country's controversial new rules for social media companies and messaging apps expected to be published this month. India's new guidelines go further than most other countries' by requiring blanket cooperation with government inquiries, no warrant or judicial order required.

Read more: Britain to make social media platforms responsible for harmful content

NORWAY’S SECRET IN HAVING ALMOST PERFECT SCORE IN PLASTIC BOTTLE RECYCLING

One at a time, the elderly lady places her empty bottles into the gaping hole of a machine at the entrance to an Oslo supermarket. With a well-functioning deposit system, Norway recycles almost all of its plastic bottles. With its 97 per cent recycling rate, Norway is 10 years ahead of the European Union's 2029 target date, by when countries must recycle at least 90 per cent of their plastic bottles.

ST interactive: How much plastic do we use

IN OTHER NEWS

SEATTLE:  The Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has bought a US$165 million (S$228.9 million) Beverly Hills mansion on 3.6-hectare land, setting a record for a Los Angeles-area home.

TOKYO:  A 112-year-old Japanese man has been crowned the world's oldest male, claiming that smiling is the key to longevity.

And finally, while many businesses roll out Valentine's Day promotions, some are going big on Galentine's Day - which is observed today (Feb 13), to celebrate female friendship.

Thank you for reading the Asian Insider, and for being a reader of The Straits Times.

See you again tomorrow.  

- Ooi Boon