Asia virus latest: Japanese business sentiment negative; April pranks off

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A volunteer sprays disinfectant in Shwedagon Pagoda against the coronavirus in Yangon, Myanmar

A volunteer sprays disinfectant in Shwedagon Pagoda against the coronavirus in Yangon, Myanmar (AFP Photo/Ye Aung Thu)

Here are the latest developments in Asia related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

- Japan business sentiment negative -

Confidence among Japan's biggest manufacturers has plunged into negative territory for the first time in seven years, a key survey showed, as the coronavirus pandemic hits demand and disrupts production.

The Bank of Japan's March Tankan business survey -- a quarterly poll of about 10,000 companies -- showed a reading of minus eight among major manufacturers, the first negative reading since March 2013.

- Pandemic pranks off the table on April Fools' Day -

It may be the global day for pranks but with the world under assault from the deadly coronavirus pandemic many governments warned against virus-themed April Fools' jokes.

Taiwan said those spreading false rumours they face up to three years in jail and a TW$3 million fine ($100,000), Thailand threatened up to five years in jail, while Indian politicians appealed for people to not share falsehoods.

- China lockdown may have blocked 700,000 virus cases -

China's decision to lock down the city of Wuhan, ground zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic, may have prevented more than 700,000 new cases by delaying the spread of the virus, researchers said.

Drastic control measures in the first 50 days of the epidemic bought other Chinese cities valuable time to prepare and install their own restrictions, according to the paper by researchers in China, the United States and Britain, published in the journal Science.

Meanwhile health officials in China said the country had more than 1,300 asymptomatic virus cases, the first time it has released such data following public concern over people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms.

- Indonesian girl dies -

An 11-year-old girl has become the youngest person is Indonesia to die after contracting the virus, with health authorities saying her death was likely linked to also having dengue fever.

Indonesia has reported 157 fatalities from the virus and 1,677 infections, but rates of testing are low and experts fear the true figures are far higher.

- Taiwan to donate masks to hard-hit countries -

Taiwan -- which has been praised for its handling of the outbreak -- will donate 10 million surgical masks and other supplies to medical workers in countries hit hard by the virus, President Tsai Ing-wen said.

China has also sent countries medical aid, as it seeks to deflect criticism over its initial missteps in handling the viral outbreak after it emerged there late last year.

China's communist leadership claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to seize the self-ruled island, by force if necessary.

- Aussie papers stop printing -

Rupert Murdoch's Australian flagship media group News Corp announced it will stop printing around 60 regional newspapers, as the troubled sector suffered a fresh blow from a COVID-19 advertising downturn.

News Corp said the newspapers would move online.

- Markets mostly fall -

Asian and European markets mostly dropped after suffering a diabolical first quarter, with traders contemplating the prospect of lengthy lockdowns as the coronavirus continues its deadly sweep across the planet.

- Beijing winter Olympics hit by Tokyo delay -

Beijing 2022 organisers said they face "a special situation" with the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics leaving less than six months between the Summer and Winter Games.

The Tokyo Olympics are now scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8, 2021 after they were put back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, while the Beijing Winter Games begin on February 4, 2022.

- Down Under driving drama -

A Sydney man allegedly caught driving a Lamborghini at nearly twice the speed limit claimed he was rushing to a COVID-19 testing clinic, police said.

The 35-year-old was fined for speeding and had his licence suspended.