Olympics postponed, India under lockdown

A man puts on a face mask, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a street market in Banda Aceh on 25 March, 2020. (AFP Photo)

Here are the latest developments in Asia related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

Olympics delay

After days of mounting pressure, Tokyo 2020 organisers bowed to the inevitable and postponed the Games to next year due to the rapidly-spreading outbreak.

Now Japan faces the unenviable task of re-organising the event - with every aspect thrown into chaos, from venues to security and accommodation.

Tokyo's governor also urged residents to stay home this weekend, warning of a "critical stage" in containing the virus in the capital.

Indians race for essentials as lockdown starts

Anxious Indians raced for essentials as an unprecedented 21-day lockdown across the nation of 1.3 billion people all but emptied normally traffic-choked roads.

Many shelves in the megacities of New Delhi and Mumbai were stripped bare of staples like lentils and rice as the world's second most populous country lurched into a shutdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Printing of newspapers stopped in some places amid fears they could spread the virus, while residents in some housing developments blocked paper sellers from entering the premises.

China lifts curbs, panda centre reopens

China lifted tough restrictions on the province at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak after a months-long lockdown.

A research and breeding facility for giant pandas reopened in southwest Sichuan province two months after closing due to the coronavirus, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Markets soar on US stimulus deal

Asian markets enjoyed another day of gains as the US Senate and White House reached a deal on a US$2 trillion stimulus package for the economy and millions of Americans hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

Markets have suffered huge falls in recent weeks as the spreading pandemic stokes fears of a global recession. 

Thailand bans all foreigners

Thailand barred entry into the kingdom in a hammer blow to the kingdom's vital tourism sector.

Tens of thousands of tourists remain in the kingdom, with airlines in chaos and restrictions on return to their home countries. 

New Zealand PM assumes emergency powers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assumed sweeping emergency powers ahead of a four-week lockdown beginning at midnight Wednesday, and immediately ramped up border controls to allow detention of overseas arrivals.

Authorities now have the power to seal off areas and detain people to ensure self-isolation rules are followed. Ardern in theory has the power to amend any legislation at will - but said she intended to remain accountable.

Cruise controversies

Cruise ships have seen some major outbreaks, and Australian officials are refusing to let three liners stranded off the west coast land to avoid repeating the "utter disaster" of a previous cruise-related coronavirus surge.

Meanwhile the Diamond Princess, a coronavirus-hit cruise ship off Japan that saw 712 passengers and crew contracting the disease with 10 deaths, left its moorings in Yokohama, a city official said.

Bali's 'Day of Silence' hit by virus fears

Bali's "Day of Silence" was even quieter than usual this year as coronavirus fears prompted authorities to scale back an annual celebration that sees the Hindu-majority island in Indonesia come to a near standstill.

Colourful street parades that usually accompany the "Nyepi" festival, which sees many people stay at home for 24 hours to reflect, were drastically reduced. 

Taiwan anger over China military drills

Anger is rising in Taiwan over China continuing to buzz the island with fighter jets and warships even as they both fight the global coronavirus pandemic.

The incursions have sparked anger on Taiwanese social media, with some even calling for the Chinese planes to be shot down.

Maldives virtual parliament

Parliamentary sessions in the tropical island paradise will go online from Monday as part of "social distancing" efforts, with 87 lawmakers connecting via Microsoft Teams.

Sri Lanka urges debt relief

Sri Lanka has urged international lenders to grant a debt moratorium and defer repayments to Sri Lanka and other developing countries struggling to contain COVID-19 outbreaks. - AFP