In today’s bulletin: Asian countries grapple with food supply fears, East Asia sees uneven recovery from coronavirus, Asian-Americans face difficult times, banks suspend loan repayments, and more.
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ASIA GRAPPLES WITH FOOD SECURITY FEARS THOUGH STOCKS EXIST
Countries in Asia are preparing for impending food shortages with panic buying at supermarkets and hoarding prevailing, despite assurances from governments and adequate production last year. With the coronavirus spread continuing, lockdowns and travel restrictions have led to concerns over supply disruptions and food security fears.
Vietnam, the world's third largest exporter of rice, became the latest to temporarily suspend new export sales. The Philippines, on the other hand, increased budget allocation to stockpile rice.
India, one of the world's largest producers and consumers, is grappling with a supply chain breakdown leaving wholesale markets and retail shelves empty in places, as it enters the second week of its 21-day lockdown.
In Singapore, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat today reassured Singaporeans that the nation's food supply was adequate, given various measures the Republic had undertaken over the years.
Australia, meanwhile, said it would charter hundreds of planes full of products such as rock lobster, beef and dairy to key markets including China, Japan and Singapore, after the cancellation of most commercial flights that usually carry fresh produce.
TOKYO MAY KEEP SCHOOLS CLOSED TILL MAY, WHILE CHINESE EXPLORE TRAVELLING AGAIN
East Asia's recovery from the spread of coronavirus remains uneven, signalling it will be a while yet before the region can move on to tackle the consequences of its spread.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the country remains on the brink of a state of emergency while reports emerged that schools could remain closed till May as the country battles coronavirus.
China counted 130 asymptomatic cases as it began publishing data on such cases from today. Meanwhile, data from Fliggy, Alibaba's online travel service provider, shows a recovery in travel plans for the upcoming Tomb Sweeping Day holiday from April 4 to 6.
Elsewhere, Seoul said it had received requests from 121 countries to help with coronavirus testing. The country's massive testing campaign, backed by intensive contact tracing, has been credited with helping slow the spread of the outbreak.
HARROWING STORIES OF ASIAN-AMERICANS IN US
A gun-store owner in Los Angeles County says he has seen a surge in the number of Asian customers in recent months, many of them first-time buyers.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation in an analysis expects hate crime incidents against Asian Americans to surge.
These are just some of the troubling mentions reflecting the woes of Asian Americans in the United States, where they are being suspected of spreading the virus.
TRUMP SIGNS OFF ON DEFERRING TARIFFS FOR THREE MONTHS
United States President Donald Trump has reportedly signed off on a plan to defer US tariffs on goods from countries with the most-favoured nation status for three months and an announcement is expected soon.
The decision, however, would not apply to tariffs on Chinese and European goods subject to Section 301 tariffs or to steel and aluminium subject to Section 232 tariffs.
The move, once announced, will ease liquidity issues for companies importing goods such as apparel and footwear and follows an agreement by trade ministers from the US and the Group of 20 (G-20) economies to keep their markets open and ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies, equipment and other essential goods as the world battles the pandemic.
BANKS ARE SUSPENDING LOAN REPAYMENTS AS COVID-29 HITS BORROWERS
Banks in several countries are beginning to offer relief to people to help them tide over these difficult times. Among them, Singapore's central bank offered loan relief for individuals and companies on Tuesday, Malaysia's central bank said banking customers would be allowed to delay repaying their existing loans for six months from today and Thailand's banks announced a coronavirus debt-relief package in early March, offering companies a year-long grace period to repay their loans.
IN OTHER NEWS
CHINESE SCIENTISTS FIND 'EFFECTIVE' ANTIBODIES: A team of Chinese scientists has isolated several antibodies that it says are "extremely effective" at blocking the ability of the new coronavirus to enter cells. Professor Zhang Linqi at Tsinghua University in Beijing said a drug made with antibodies like the ones his team have found could be used more effectively than the current approaches. Among the first 20 or so antibodies tested, four were able to block viral entry and of those, two were "exceedingly good"at doing so, he said.
OIL PRICES TO DROP FURTHER: Oil is entering a period of unparalleled demand destruction this month that promises to permanently alter the industry for years to come. Daily consumption will plummet by 15 million to 22 million barrels in April from a year earlier, according to estimates from some of the world's most influential energy analysts.
ZOOM TAKES LEAD OVER MICROSOFT: Zoom Video Communications Inc's average user numbers in March were nearly three times that of its nearest rival Microsoft Corp's Teams, according to research firm Apptopia, as the coronavirus-driven stay-at-home lifted demand for video conferencing platforms.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Stay safe and we’ll be back with you tomorrow.
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