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China to lift lockdown on Hubei province, including Wuhan

Tuesday March 24 2020

China migrant workers

Migrant workers and their relatives queue to get on a special train before departing to Shenzhen, in Yichang in China's central Hubei province on March 23, 2020. People in central China where the coronavirus was first detected are allowed to go back to work and public transport is restarting as some normalcy slowly returns after a two-month lockdown. PHOTO | STR | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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Beijing

China's central Hubei province, where the deadly coronavirus first emerged late last year, is to lift travel curbs after two months under lockdown, officials said.

Healthy residents will be allowed to leave the province from midnight Tuesday, while Wuhan, the initial epicentre of the outbreak, will lift restrictions from April 8.

But while the tough restrictions have brought local virus transmissions under control, there are now fears of a second wave of infections from outside the country.

China reported 78 new cases of the virus Tuesday – the vast majority brought in from overseas.

MARKETS FALL

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Global markets have experienced some of their biggest falls in decades as the pandemic spreads worldwide, but Asian equities and oil received a welcome boost after the US Federal Reserve unleashed major new stimulus.

The US central bank's unprecedented bond-buying programme to support the virus-hit American economy essentially amounts to a vow to print cash, a move not seen since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

Senior International Olympic Committee official Dick Pound said a postponement of this year's Tokyo Olympics is now inevitable, a day after Canada pulled out of the Games.

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee joined a growing chorus of sports bodies voicing support for a delay to the Games starting July 24, after a survey showed a majority of American athletes backed a postponement.

VIRUS CHECKPOINTS

Australia's military will deploy to help set up virus checkpoints on routes into the remote Northern Territory, as the region goes into lockdown.

The territory – home to a sizeable Aboriginal population, Uluru and some of Australia's most rugged and pristine Outback – will effectively be closed to non-essential travel from Tuesday afternoon.

South Korea doubled its business aid package to 100 trillion won ($80 billion), with President Moon Jae-in saying it would help "not only self-employed and small-to-medium size companies but also major industries".

SOUTH KOREA

At one point South Korea was the country hardest-hit by the virus outside China, but widespread testing and quarantine efforts have seen its new case numbers fall below 100 a day.

Police were called in as huge crowds swamped a New Zealand ferry terminal, with people rushing to get home before a four-week coronavirus lockdown begins, as panic buying stripped supermarket shelves bare.

Tensions rose as hundreds of desperate travellers tried to secure spots on the roll-on, roll-off ferries that link the country's South and North Islands in Picton.

BORDER CONTROLS

The former Portuguese colony followed neighbouring Hong Kong in tightening border controls, with foreigners banned from entry, some residents barred and restrictions placed on others.

The gambling hub has been hit hard by the outbreak, with the key casino industry suffering its worst monthly downturn on record in February after city-wide closures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan faced a storm of criticism over social media posts – now deleted – which appeared to suggest the use of noise and lunar activity can drive away the virus.

Some said he did not actually endorse the claims – nevertheless the online backlash was merciless.

"Don't peddle lies about an ongoing pandemic," wrote one furious Twitter user.