Top Asian News 2:55 a.m. GMT
TOKYO (AP) — Japan is set to place Tokyo under a state of emergency that would last through the Olympics, fearing an ongoing COVID-19 surge will multiply during the Games. At a meeting with experts Thursday morning, government officials proposed a plan to issue a state of emergency in Tokyo from next Monday to Aug. 22. The Summer Olympics, already delayed a year by the pandemic, begin July 23 and close Aug. 8. The Games already will take place without foreign spectators, but the planned six-week state of emergency likely ends chances of a local audience. A decision about fans is expected Friday when local organizers meet with the International Olympic Committee and other representatives.
NEW DELHI (AP) — In a massive Cabinet revamp, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dropped 12 senior Cabinet ministers on Wednesday and inducted a younger team aimed at refurbishing his government’s image after widespread criticism of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, whose response to the epidemic came under close examination, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Law and Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar were among those who resigned hours ahead of the reshuffle. Prasad was involved in a bitter row with Twitter over India’s new internet regulations, which digital activists say could curtail online speech and privacy.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The largest party in Malaysia’s ruling alliance said Thursday that it will withdraw support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin immediately and urged him to make way for a new leader. The announcement is a political bombshell that could potentially trigger the collapse of the government if he refuses to quit and spark a general election. Muhyiddin took power in March 2020 after initiating the downfall of the former reformist government that won the 2018 elections. His Bersatu party joined with the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, which was ousted in the 2018 polls, and others to form a new government, but his alliance has a razor-thin majority in Parliament.
BANGKOK (AP) — Pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets Wednesday in cities and towns around Myanmar to commemorate students who lost their lives in 1962 when a military dictator violently suppressed protests against harsh university discipline implemented under his regime. The 1962 protests at Rangoon University, named after the city now called Yangon, implicitly criticized the March 2, 1962, coup in which Gen. Ne Win ended parliamentary democracy and instituted military rule that would last five decades. The events still resonate today in Myanmar, especially after the army’s Feb. 1 takeover that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
BANGKOK (AP) — China’s most popular social media service has deleted accounts on LGBT topics run by university students and nongovernment groups, prompting concern the ruling Communist Party is tightening control over gay and lesbian content. WeChat sent account holders a notice they violated rules but gave no details, according to the founder of an LGBT group, who asked not to be identified further out of fear of possible official retaliation. She said dozens of accounts were shut down, all at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday. It wasn’t clear whether the step was ordered by Chinese authorities, but it comes as the ruling party tightens political controls and tries to silence groups that might criticize its rule.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Wednesday reported 1,212 new cases, a steep rise in coronavirus infections unseen since the winter outbreak as it slips into another surge while most of its people are still unvaccinated. Health experts say the government sent the wrong message by pushing for a premature easing of social distancing. Packed restaurants, bars and stores and huge beer-drinking crowds at parks alongside Seoul’s Han River in recent weeks have illustrated how the country has let its guard down despite a slow vaccine rollout. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said officials will consider tougher distancing rules if transmissions continue to grow over the next two or three days.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Sydney’s two-week lockdown has been extended for another week due to the vulnerability of an Australia population largely unvaccinated against COVID-19, officials said on Wednesday. “The situation we’re in now is largely because we haven’t been able to get the vaccine that we need,” New South Wales state Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. The decision to extend the lockdown through July 16 was made on health advice, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. “The reason why we’ve extended the lockdown is because of a number of cases still infectious in the community and we extended the lockdown to give us the best chance of not having another lockdown,” Berejiklian said.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — With his aunt gasping for breath at home from her COVID-19 infection, 17-year-old Ridho Milhasan took matters into his own hands Wednesday and went to find her some oxygen. After his uncle scrounged an empty tank from a friend, Milhasan found an oxygen filling station in southern Jakarta, waited in the long line of others also in desperate need, and emerged triumphantly after three hours with the supply he needed. “My aunt badly needed this oxygen,” he said before strapping the oxygen container to his small scooter. “This pandemic is getting dire.” Across Indonesia the coronavirus is again spreading rapidly, and Wednesday was the country’s deadliest day since the start of the pandemic with 1,040 reported deaths.
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Young health worker Masrat Farid has trekked long distances through remote Himalayan meadows in Indian-controlled Kashmir to vaccinate nomadic herders in a campaign launched in June. Her challenge isn’t the treacherous terrain, she says, but persuading people to get inoculated against the coronavirus. “Everywhere we go it seems rumors reach earlier than we do, and it makes our job difficult,” Farid said during a recent vaccination campaign in a high altitude meadow. She said most people are hesitant to get vaccinated because of the rumors. And the rumors are plentiful. Fueled by misinformation and mistrust, many residents, particularly in remote areas, believe that the vaccines cause impotence, serious side effects and could even kill.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities locked down a city bordering Myanmar on Wednesday, shutting most businesses and requiring residents to stay at home as a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 expanded. Two more cases were confirmed by the end of Wednesday, bringing the total to 23 in Ruili city over the past four days, health authorities in southwestern Yunnan province said. The lockdown shut down all businesses and public institutions except hospitals, pharmacies and essential shops such as grocery stores, according to a notice posted online. It affects the urban part of Ruili, which like most Chinese cities includes surrounding rural areas in its jurisdiction.