Asian Insider, Feb 7: China launches a people’s war against the coronavirus and Singapore moves to Code Orange

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

Hi,

In today’s bulletin: President Xi Jinping says China has launched a people’s war and is fully confident in defeating the coronavirus epidemic and Singapore moves into a heightened Orange alert after four local transmissions were detected.

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CORONAVIRUS: CHINA HAS LAUNCHED A 'PEOPLE’S WAR' AND IS FULLY CONFIDENT IN DEFEATING THE EPIDEMIC

China leader Xi Jinping called the fight to contain the virus a "people's war" and said that China has implemented "nationwide mobilisation, comprehensive deployment and rapid response" along with "the strictest prevention and control measures" against the virus. In a telephone call to US President Donald Trump, he said China was "fully confident and capable of defeating the epidemic", and that "the long-term trend of China's economic development for the better will not change".

FIGHT TO STOP VIRUS

Casualties: Over 31,000 sick and 636 dead

Courageous front-liners: Wuhan has made great strides in testing and treating patients

Helping hand: iPhone factory Foxconn is chipping in to produce masks and medical clothing as other mask-makers go on an overdrive to ramp up production.

Life goes on: How China keeps 1.4b people fed as health checks slow traffic

Events postponed: Dozens of major fairs in China and the region have been postponed

IN SINGAPORE

Code Orange:  Senior Health Correspondent Salma Khalik reports that Singapore has moved up its response to the coronavirus outbreak to Code Orange because of "heightened risk". This is because there are now four cases of infection with no known links to China or people already infected, which means the disease may be spreading in the community.

Business continuity: Assistant Business Editor Joanna Seow reports that firms planning contingency measures to stay operational amid the coronavirus outbreak can refer to a new guide published by government agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG).

Impact on business:  Associate Editor Ven Sreenivasan says while businesses ranging from retail and services to entertainment and hospitality are the most visible casualties as travellers and consumers stay home, the aviation sector - the engine of modern economic activity - will perhaps be among the worst hit.

Joining the fight: Science and Environment Correspondent Audrey Tan reports that biotech companies in Singapore are now working to develop a diagnostic test kit for the Wuhan virus. One of them is home-grown biotech company Acumen Research Laboratories.

Show will go on:  The Chinese air force's aerobatics team will be performing at the biennial Singapore Airshow next week despite the ongoing ban on travellers from China. 

THE ASIAN INSIDER VIDEO: US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh speaks to Global Affairs Correspondent Benjamin Lim Kang in Beijing on how China is responding to the coronavirus crisis  

                                    

THE STRAITS TIMES HEALTH CHECK PODCAST: Virologist Prof Wang Linfa offers hand hygiene tips to counter novel coronavirus threat

SINGAPORE'S NEW BUSINESS PROJECTS TO CREATE OVER $17B IN VALUE AND 20,000 NEW JOBS

Business journalist Sue-Ann Tan reports that more than 11,000 businesses embarked on projects to raise productivity, innovate and go international last year, a 43 per cent increase compared with 2018. The 13,560 projects started in 2019 by these enterprises are expected to generate an estimated $17.3 billion in value-added to the Singapore economy and create 21,700 professional, managerial, executive, technical (PMET) jobs in future, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) noted at its year-in-review on Friday (Feb 7).

SEE ALSO: Big jump in investments last year set to create 32,000 jobs in Singapore

PUBLIC TRANSPORT SATISFACTION IN SINGAPORE DIPS DESPITE IMPROVED RELIABILITY

Senior Transport Correspondent Christopher Tan reports that public transport satisfaction dipped slightly last year (2019), pulled down by factors such as travel times, accessibility, service information and customer service. Overall satisfaction registered a score of 7.8 compared with 7.9 in 2018 and 7.7 in 2017, noted the Public Transport Council, which commissions the yearly poll of nearly 5,000 commuters.

SEE ALSO: MRT reliability is at a high - now to keep it there

BREXIT: UK AND EUROPE SEARCH FOR COMPROMISE IN TRADE NEGOTIATIONS

Global Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Eyal notes that barely a week after Britain left the European Union, both sides are engaged in grandstanding, staking out extravagant and unrealistic claims about the conditions which will govern their future relationship. Yet behind the scenes a more productive discussion is taking place, with both desperately searching for new approaches to a relationship for which there is no legal precedent.

SEE ALSO: Divorce complete, Britain faces next test: What if Brexit works?

MAHATHIR DEFENDS MOVE TO TEACH MATH AND SCIENCE IN ENGLISH

Malaysia Correspondent Nadirah Rodzi reports that in defending the move to restart teaching science and mathematics in English in schools, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad cited an example involving some Malaysian scientists who attended international scientific conferences but were unable to understand the discussions in English. “I am a Malay. I love the community and the Malay language. But we need to consider the advancement of the community. If we care for the community, we must emphasise on their success more than focusing on the mother tongue,” he said.

SEE ALSO: English to be used to teach maths, science again, says Malaysian PM Mahathir

IN OTHER NEWS

SINGAPORE:  More Singaporeans and enterprises tapped SkillsFuture initiatives to improve job skills last year. About 500,000 individuals and 14,000 enterprises took part in SkillFuture programmes in 2019, an increase from the 465,000 individuals and 12,000 enterprises that benefited in 2018, said the agency in its annual report card.

SEE ALSO:  Use your SkillsFuture credits to sign up The Straits Times English MasterClass to improve writing skills

INDIA:  Mumbai, India's financial hub and the nation's richest municipality, is exploring new ways to boost revenue as a slowing economy hurts earnings from real estate. This includes tax on garbage collection and additional levies on services such as issuing birth certificates.

Finally, even if you plan to stay at home, there is no excuse for being less romantic for the coming Valentine’s Day. Lifestyle Journalist Amanda Chai suggests some ways for you to celebrate with your loved ones without leaving your home. And with online shopping, you can have practically any gift imaginable shipped right to your doorstep.

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

Have a good weekend and see you again on Monday.  

Ooi Boon 

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