Asian Insider: Omicron surge in Asia | S'porean EV trailblazer

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

Dear ST reader,

Hope you're having a good start to 2022.

As Covid-19 continues to stay with us - Asia is seeing a spike in cases driven by the more contagious Omicron variant - governments are now more prepared to tackle the virus.

This week, we feature Mr Soh Wei Ming, a Singaporean who is leading the charge in the electric vehicle sector in China.

As we look forward to a better year, we also look back at the events that made headlines last year and some interesting inventions born from the pandemic.

Omicron surge in Asia

As Omicron ravages the US and Europe, Asia is also bracing itself for another Covid-19 wave. 

Singapore could see a peak of 15,000 cases a day in the worst case scenario, officials said, as they urged people to take their booster jabs.

Japan registered more than 2,000 cases yesterday for the first time since September, and reported more than 4,000 cases today, posing what seems to be the first real challenge for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida who took office last October.

Hong Kong ended its zero-local-case streak this week after the city reported its first Omicron cluster amid a rise in imported cases. This has prompted officials to reimpose a series of strict curbs including a ban on dining-in after 6pm.

India too is seeing mounting Omicron cases especially in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Many states have ordered schools to close.

Elsewhere:

Metro Manila sees record daily Covid-19 cases despite new curbs

Indonesia to roll out Covid-19 boosters in January

Thai tourism players on edge as Omicron fears stall travel sector


Covid-inspired inventions

<p>Imam Saroso (R) and his wife Faizah Badaruddin (L), who are hearing and speech-impaired, pose with homemade face masks which enables people with disabilities like them to read lips when communicating, in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on April 28, 2020 amid

From innovative to quirky, the pandemic has pushed scientists, engineers and ordinary people across the world to come up with ideas that have changed our lives. ST correspondents take stock of the range of inventions inspired by Covid-19.

Interactive: A lookback at news events of 2021


EV trailblazer

Singaporean Soh Wei Ming is giving Tesla a run for its money. The 55-year-old is building a premium "elegant AI (artificial intelligence) electric vehicle" in China, which now leads both sales and technology of the rapidly growing EV industry. 

The former Volkswagen executive vice-president has spent the last 25 years helping to grow China's mammoth car industry. He tells China bureau chief Tan Dawn Wei why what he did was not welcomed by some people.

Podcast: Why China will scrap subsidies for electric cars by end-2022


Hawks and US-China ties

As the world continues to watch the power play between the United States and China, a greater concern, writes US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh, is the danger of rising hyper-nationalism on both sides overriding pragmatism, priming the ground for war.

Listen: Nuclear weapons may keep peace despite risk of US-China war

Today marks the first anniversary of the Jan 6 US Capitol insurrection, amid a deep pessimism about the future of America's democracy. 

Much has been debated about what true democracy is, with China claiming that its brand of democracy is more genuine than those in the West. But does it pass the test of democratic traditions, and will the people want more? Global affairs correspondent Goh Sui Noi gives her take.


The big clean-up

Tens of thousands of Malaysians are now picking up the pieces following the massive floods that hit many states during the New Year period. Food truck vendor Rahman Sarif had to throw out almost all his electrical appliances and he estimated his losses to be at least RM40,000 (S$13,000), he told Malaysia correspondent Nadirah H. Rodzi.

Analysis: Land mismanagement leaves Malaysia counting lives, homes lost to floods

Meanwhile, new political parties are emerging in Malaysia with an eye on a share of millions of first-time voters, reports Malaysia correspondent Ram Anand.


Tough time for India's NGOs

On Christmas Day, India blocked a charity founded by the late Mother Teresa from accepting foreign donations for its humanitarian work. 

Since then, nearly 6,000 NGOs have failed to have their licences renewed in the new year, resulting in foreign funding being cut off.

The flurry of cancellations has raised questions, particularly at a time when the role of NGOs has become more important in supporting the vulnerable hit by the pandemic, write India correspondents Nirmala Ganapathy and Debarshi Dasgupta.


Star power in anti-coup campaign

He topped the latest Most Handsome Faces list. But Myanmar model-actor Paing Takhon is more than good looks and a chiselled body. He is among celebrities who used their star power to galvanise opposition to the coup.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen who is visiting Myanmar tomorrow as Asean chair, writes Indochina bureau chief Tan Hui Yee.


Hope you enjoy this week's selection. Stay safe and thank you for reading The Straits Times.

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