Thai state of emergency, Tokyo urged to stay home

A nurse checks the temperature of a passenger at one of the checkpoints set up in Bangkok on 26 March, 2020. (AFP Photo)

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

Thai state of emergency begins

A state of emergency came into force in Thailand aimed at halting the spread of the virus.

Entry into the kingdom has been barred except for diplomats and returning Thais, a hammer blow for the lucrative tourism industry, while all gatherings have been outlawed.

Traffic was light in the capital Bangkok Thursday, a city usually notorious for its congestion, with virtually all shops closed and restaurants offering only takeaway.

Tokyo residents urged to stay home

Tokyo's governor urged people to stay home this weekend, warning of a possible "explosion" of the coronavirus after a record 41 new cases were discovered on Wednesday.

Yuriko Koike said the Japanese capital, so far spared the draconian measures seen in other major global cities, was at a "critical stage" in containing the virus that has confined more than three billion people to their homes worldwide.

Philippine doctors die

Nine doctors have died in the Philippines from the coronavirus, a medical association said, as hospitals become overwhelmed and medics complain about a lack of protective equipment.

Three large Manila hospitals announced they had reached full capacity and would no longer accept new coronavirus cases. Hundreds of medical staff are undergoing 14-day self-quarantines after suspected exposure.

China cuts international flights, bars foreigners

China will drastically cut international flight routes in a bid to blunt the number of imported coronavirus cases. 

Flights out of China will be capped at just one route a week to each country, with international airlines also permitted only one route.

The virus first originated in China late last year but there have been no new domestic infections reported for two consecutive days. There have been more than 500 imported cases so far.

Officials also announced that most foreigners would be temporarily prevented from entering the country, including those with valid visas and residence permits, from midnight on Saturday. 

Singapore GDP contracts

Singapore's economy in the first quarter suffered its biggest contraction since the financial crisis as the coronavirus pandemic escalated, data showed - an ominous sign of the devastation being inflicted on the global economy.

The export-reliant financial hub - one of the world's most open economies and viewed as a barometer for the health of global trade - is now heading for a deep recession this year after the economy shrank 2.2 percent on-year in the quarter.

India stimulus measures

India announced an economic welfare package of INR1.7 trillion (US$22.5 billion) to help its poorest citizens, with direct cash transfers and food subsidies for three months. 

The country of 1.3 billion has imposed a lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.

AirAsia grounds planes

Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia announced it was grounding most of its fleet across its entire network, the latest airline to announce such a step as travel demand collapses amid the pandemic.

Asian markets claw back losses

Asian markets mostly rose or clawed back early losses as investors breathed a sigh of relief that US senators finally passed a gargantuan stimulus package for the world's biggest economy which had been delayed by wrangling over details.

Afghanistan prisoner release

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered the release of up to 10,000 prisoners - mostly women, juveniles and sick people - in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The decision would not apply to those who have "committed crimes against national and international security," said Attorney General Farid Hamidi.

Malaysian royals in self-quarantine

Malaysia's king and queen have gone into self-quarantine for 14 days after seven staff at their palace tested positive for the virus. The royal couple have tested negative, but are self-isolating as a precaution.

Aussies worried about bats

Animal welfare activists in Australia appealed for calm after reports emerged that emergency services were being flooded with calls from people fearful that the country's large populations of bats were spreading the coronavirus.

Australia is home to about 90 species of bat, including endangered "flying fox" megabats endemic to populous areas in the east. - AFP