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Top Asian News 6:11 a.m. GMT

June 1, 2020 GMT

Protests spark virus fears in US; South Korea sees new cases

MIAMI (AP) — Protests around the U.S. against police brutality have sparked fears of a further spread of the coronavirus, while South Korea is reporting a steady rise in cases around the capital after appearing to bring the outbreak under control. The often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer, are raising fears of new virus outbreaks in a country that has more confirmed infections and deaths than any other. The protests come as more beaches, churches, mosques, schools and businesses reopen worldwide, increasing the risk of cross-infections.

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Asia Today: Philippines sees traffic jams as lockdown eases

BANGKOK (AP) — Traffic jams and crowds of commuters returned to the Philippine capital on Monday, as the metropolis relaxed antivirus measures in a high-stakes gamble to slowly reopen the economy while fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Commuter trains, taxis, ride-sharing cars, special shuttle buses and motorcycles rumbled back on the road in metropolitan Manila but were only allowed to carry a fraction of their capacity as a safeguard. Public transport was still limited by the relaxed rules and many commuters waited for hours to get a ride despite the government’s deployment of buses. A larger swarm of private cars also helped choke roads.

Nepal volunteers become local heroes during virus pandemic

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BHAKTAPUR, Nepal (AP) — When the new mother died in the hospital last month — the first person to succumb to COVID-19 in Nepal — her days-old baby was moved to an isolation ward. But the woman’s body remained. Ambulance drivers and hospital workers, fearful of the contagion, refused to move the corpse from the hospital morgue to the crematorium, where it could be burned in keeping with Hindu tradition. And so authorities called upon RNA-16 — three men and a woman in signature blue vests, renowned for their selfless volunteer work in Bhaktapur, a UNESCO world heritage site known as the “city of temples” just east of the capital, Kathmandu.

AP PHOTOS: Thailand’s reopening is ‘same-same but different’

BANGKOK (AP) — As Thailand’s daily tally of new COVID-19 cases has fallen to single digits most days over the past two weeks, authorities continue to ease restrictions put in place to combat the pandemic. Previous routines are both familiar and new as Thais return to daily life. Buddhist monks are in streets at dawn collecting alms, having added face masks to their garb. Businesses such as shopping malls have reopened, checking customers for fevers and dispensing sanitizing gel for their convenient use. Food courts and restaurants serve up their usual spicy delights, but diners must keep their distance from one another.

Passenger van crash in south Nepal kills 12, injures 21 more

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A crowded passenger van crashed into a parked truck on a highway in southern Nepal around midnight, killing 12 people and injuring 21 others, officials said Monday. Two of the injured are in critical condition while the rest are in stable condition, Bheri Hospital official Sanket Risal said. Police were investigating the crash, but local news reports said the van was speeding on the highway that passes through jungle near Rapti Sonari village, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of the capital, Kathmandu. Nepal’s coronavirus lockdown in place since March requires vehicles to obtain a permit to operate on roads.

The Latest: India climbs to 7th biggest outbreak in world

India expels 2 Pakistani embassy officials on spying charges

NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Sunday said it caught two Pakistan High Commission officials in the Indian capital spying and ordered them to leave the country within 24 hours. An Indian External Affairs Ministry statement said a strong protest was lodged with the Pakistan High Commission regarding the activities of its two officials which it said were against India’s national security. It didn’t say whether the two were holding diplomatic status or were junior officers working in the Pakistani mission. In Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, the foreign ministry condemned India’s decision about the expulsion of two of its embassy officials. In a statement, it said the two staff members of the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi were lifted by Indian authorities Sunday on false and unsubstantiated charges.

In virus-hit South Korea, AI monitors lonely elders

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — In a cramped office in eastern Seoul, Hwang Seungwon points a remote control toward a huge NASA-like overhead screen stretching across one of the walls. With each flick of the control, a colorful array of pie charts, graphs and maps reveals the search habits of thousands of South Korean senior citizens being monitored by voice-enabled “smart” speakers, an experimental remote care service the company says is increasingly needed during the coronavirus crisis. “We closely monitor for signs of danger, whether they are more frequently using search words that indicate rising states of loneliness or insecurity,” said Hwang, director of a social enterprise that handles SK Telecom’s services.

Probe blames safety lapses for deadly India gas leak

NEW DELHI (AP) — A committee appointed by India’s top environmental court has blamed “gross human failure” and lack of basic safety norms for a gas leak in a South Korean-owned chemical factory that killed 12 people and sickened hundreds. The committee said the tanks from which the gas leaked May 7 at the LG Polymers plant in Vishakhapatnam, a port city in Andhra Pradesh state, were outdated and lacked temperature sensors. Workers at the factory were slow to respond to the leak and the chemical company lacked experience in monitoring and maintaining tanks full of chemicals that sat idle for weeks due to India’s coronavirus lockdown, said the committee’s report, which was issued Thursday and accessed and reviewed by The Associated Press.

IS claims Afghan bus attack; civilians killed in new clashes

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Islamic State group took responsibility Sunday for a deadly roadside bombing against a bus belonging to a local TV station in the Afghan capital, while renewed fighting in nearby provinces killed at least seven civilians, including a woman and several children. In a statement on an IS-affiliated website, the group said Saturday’s attack in Kabul targeted a bus carrying employees of Khurshid TV, a station it described as “loyal to the Afghan apostate government.” Two employees were killed and four wounded, said Marwa Amini, the Interior Ministry deputy spokeswoman. Two of the wounded were in critical condition Sunday, said Mohammad Rafi Sediqi, an official at the station.

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