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Asia virus latest: Macau casino revenue plunges, Singapore rehouses migrant workers

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

– Macau casinos suffer historic earnings plunge –

Macau’s gaming revenue was virtually wiped out in April as casinos suffered their worst month on record owing to measures put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the tourist-dependent city.

Gross gaming revenue was $95 million last month, official data showed — a drop of 97 percent from the $3 billion raked in during April 2019.

The former Portuguese colony shuttered all its casinos for two weeks in February as the virus burst out of central China but while they have since reopened, anti-virus measures still mean mainland visitors cannot enter the city, leaving casino tables devoid of gamblers.

– Fears of Afghanistan ‘disaster’ –

A US government watchdog said that Afghanistan risks a coronavirus disaster, even though the numbers of cases and deaths remain relatively low for the moment.

“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in its quarterly report.

Afghanistan officials have so far confirmed 2,171 cases of COVID-19, including 64 deaths, but access to testing remains difficult and experts fear the true numbers could be much higher.

– Singapore moves migrant workers to empty cruise ships –

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Singapore said it had begun moving migrant workers who had recovered from the coronavirus onto two unused cruise ships.

The vast majority of the city-state’s new infections are in sprawling dormitory complexes housing foreign workers, many of whom are labourers from South Asia.

To reduce the risk of infection in crowded dorms, many migrant workers have been moved to other sites including military barracks and vacant apartment blocks.

– Australia considers easing restrictions –

Australia will consider early easing of coronavirus restrictions next week, as the number of local cases dwindled and the economic impact of the crisis fell into painful relief.

Authorities have detected almost 7,000 COVID-19 infections, but new daily cases are now close to single figures and some parts of the country have not seen a case in more than a week.

Millions of Aussies have seen their work hours cut and the unemployment rate is set to roughly double to 10 percent as a result of the national lockdown.

Malaysia will meanwhile allow most businesses to reopen from next week after the number of new infections slowed markedly.

– Hong Kong police on alert for democracy rallies –

Riot police hit Hong Kong’s streets ahead of planned rallies by pro-democracy protesters who were looking to defy restrictions on gatherings during the pandemic to voice anger against authoritarian Chinese rule.

The semi-autonomous financial hub was upended by seven months of violent protests last year, hammering its reputation for stability and leaving the city deeply divided.

Small protests have bubbled up in the past week and activists are hoping to use May Day to muster numbers once more.

– Indonesians test positive after religious gathering –

At least 100 people in Indonesia who participated in a religious mass gathering in March tested positive for the virus, authorities said.

The pilgrimage organised by the Jamaah Tabligh group had been cancelled by the authorities at the last minute but thousands of participants from many countries were already on site.

– Japan aquarium asks public to phone eels –

A Tokyo aquarium closed during the coronavirus outbreak is asking people to make video calls to their eels so the sensitive creatures remember humans exist and don’t pose a threat.

The Sumida Aquarium has been closed since the start of March and its animals have become used to a largely human-free environment during the two-month calm.

But the aquarium said the “unprecedented situation” was having some unexpected downsides.

“Creatures in the aquarium don’t see humans except keepers and they have started forgetting about humans,” it said on its Twitter account.