Asian Insider, July 2: Coronavirus infections jump, Singapore’s digital election, Myanmar landslide, fake flights in Taiwan

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

Hi all,

In today's bulletin: Coronavirus infections continue to rise in Asia, a jade mine landslide in Myanmar leaves over 100 dead, campaigning in Singapore polls goes digital, Taiwan & Japan eye Hong Kong's skilled workers, an airport in Taiwan launches fake flights for the travel-starved, and more.

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A growing number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the region continues to raise concern with lockdowns being eased and social distancing remaining a challenge.

The number of infections surpassed 600,000 in India today with 17,834 deaths. Officials in the north-eastern parts of the country were having a challenging time containing the pandemic with floods and landslides forcing more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes. Experts say the real number of infections in the country is not really known as fear of being quarantined in inadequate facilities has kept several away from being tested.

Increase in the number of cases and prospects of a second wave of infections has led Japan to create a new panel headed by Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a physician who chaired a commission on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, to review ongoing measures. Tokyo confirmed 107 more infections on Thursday, most of them adults who visited entertainment venues.

In South Korea, an increase in the number of sporadic cases in the southern city of Gwangju has led to fears that that it could be the next Daegu - the city that reported the biggest number of infections, many of them linked to a religious cult at the centre of the country's virus outbreak.

Other updates:

Jakarta extends restrictions for two weeks, more surveillance at traditional markets and commuter trains

Australia police probe quarantine lapses


A heap of mining waste collapsed into a lake triggering a wave of mud and water that buried several workers collecting stones in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state, in Myanmar.

Over a hundred bodies were found but rescue officials said more were missing. Landslides and accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines.

Many of the workers are freelance "jade pickers" who search through residue for stones after the larger operators have left the area.


Online rallies, Zoom sessions, social media messages - this election is proving to be truly a digital election as parties and individuals take their campaigns online for votes.

The People's Action Party (PAP), Workers' Party (WP), Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) were among those to have already tried out an online event of some sort since campaigning formally began on Tuesday, writes Foreign Editor Jeremy Au Yong who is currently covering the polls.

Each party took quite different approaches to these e-rallies, in a sign that this new medium is still being explored as a means to reach out to voters, he says.

With some time left before polling day on July 10, digital action is set to pick up.

Jobs has emerged as a key theme in this election with an economic crisis looming and the size of Singapore's population in future came up for discussion today.

Catch the latest on our dedicated site on Singapore GE here:

GE2020: Singapore votes

Don't miss:

Editor's Take: How GE2020 is shaping up to be a truly digital election


Hong Kong's bankers and skilled professionals are being eyed by Taiwan and Japan amid expectations that some might want to leave the island as China tightens its grip on the city.

Hours after Hong Kong's new security law came into effect on June 30, Taiwan opened an office dedicated to serving individual and business migrants from Hong Kong. The government is also reviewing regulations that inhibit migration, including the income tax rate.

Japan is mulling over reforms to make its capital more attractive to international firms and attract finance professionals from Hong Kong.

"What Japan offers that Hong Kong doesn't is freedom," Ms Satsuki Katayama, who heads a Liberal Democratic Party ruling panel on foreign labour, said in an interview this week. "If Hong Kong becomes the kind of place where people's Facebook likes are being checked, will they put up with that? I think people want to live somewhere normal."

Australia, meanwhile, is said to be actively considering providing a safe haven to Hong Kong residents.

More on Hong Kong:

China warns Britain about Hong Kong citizenship plan

Sanctions Bill on Hong Kong law passed by US House


Coronavirus may have smashed tourism plans for several people but one Taiwanese airport has come up with an innovative plan for the travel-starved.

Taipei's downtown Songshan airport is offering travellers fake flights. It comes complete with a fake itinerary where you can check in, go through passport control, security and even board an Airbus A330, with flight attendants welcoming people in. But the flights don't take-off.


ASIAN-AMERICANS FACE DISCRIMINATION DURING PANDEMIC: Nearly four in 10 black American and Asian American adults surveyed say people have acted uncomfortably around them because of their race or ethnicity since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Only 13 per cent of white adults say this has happened to them, US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh reports. Asian Americans account for 6 per cent of the US population and are the fastest growing major racial or ethnic group in the country.

UMNO & PAS TO BACK MUHYIDDIN AFTER NEXT POLLS: In a significant boost for Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, both the Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) parties have said he would be their nominee for prime minister should they win the next general election. This marks a change in the stance of the two parties. The next polls are due in 2023 but political turmoil has led to speculation that it could be held this year.

MYANMAR ELECTIONS ON NOV 8: Myanmar state media yesterday announced Nov 8 as the date for a parliamentary election that will serve as a test of the country's first democratic government in half a century. Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won power by a landslide in 2015 that ended decades of junta rule. But her administration has come under pressure internationally over a military crackdown that drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh in 2017.

NEW ZEALAND'S HEALTH MINISTER RESIGNS AFTER SLIP-UPS: The country's embattled health minister resigned today after security slip-ups at quarantine facilities where coronavirus was detected just days after officials declared it had been eliminated from the country. David Clark's departure, which also followed criticism for his personal breaches of strict lockdown rules earlier in the year, comes as New Zealand heads into a September general election.

That's it for today. Have a good week ahead, stay safe and we'll be back with you tomorrow.


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