Asian Insider, Sept 29: Covid-19 to push millions into poverty; Suga to host meet of some ‘Indo-Pacific’ members; China’s five-part concurrent military drills

Hi all,

In today’s bulletin: World Bank warns of another challenge shaping up – of millions more being pushed into poverty; US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to fly down to Japan for a meeting of ‘Quad’ members; China’s military drills raise alarm, SIA drops its fly to nowhere proposal, and more.

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COVID-19 TO PUSH MILLIONS INTO POVERTY IN THE REGION

As many as 38 million more people would be living in poverty this year in East Asia and the Pacific, according to a new World Bank report released today. 

The number includes 33 million who would have otherwise escaped poverty and 5 million who could have escaped poverty but are being pushed into that category by the pandemic and its effects. 

This would be the first time in 20 years that poverty in the region would have increased in the region, the World Bank said. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation said some 120 million rapid tests for Covid-19 will be made available to poorer countries at US$5 (S$6.87) each, if it can find the money. 

Here are some of the latest reports on the Covid-19 situation: 

Why the true Covid death toll may be way over 1 million

Warning signs are flashing ahead of Covid’s second US winter

India’s hospitals are struggling for oxygen supply as coronavirus pandemic surges

JAPANESE PREMIER SUGA TO HOST QUAD MEETING

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will host his first ministerial-level international meeting on Oct 6 of top diplomats from the United States, India, Australia and Japan. 

The four countries are part of a strategic grouping – known as the “Quad” – which seeks to serve as a counterweight to China and promote the US-backed concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” 

The meeting on Oct 6 will be attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Here are some other updates on Japan: 

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi may visit Japan as early as October

Tokyo determined to host Olympics next year, Suga tells UN

CHINA HOLDS SIMULTANEOUS MILITARY DRILLS IN FOUR SEAS

China began five concurrent military exercises this week raising regional concerns yet again. This is the second time in two months that such simultaneous drills are taking place and it comes amid mounting concerns over China’s role in regional affairs.

Two of the exercises are being held near the Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea, one in the East China Sea, and one further north in the Bohai Sea, the Maritime Safety Administration said in notices on its website. In the southern part of the Yellow Sea, drills including live-fire exercises will be held from Monday to Wednesday, it said in another notice.

Also read: 

Associate Editor Ravi Velloor’s commentary: US, China and the indelicate art of insults

SIA DROPS ‘FLIGHTS TO NOWHERE’ PLAN

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has opted to drop its flights to nowhere scheme scheduled for launch next month. The scheme would have given domestic passengers an option to take a three-hour flight to nowhere in particular. SIA’s proposal had sparked quite an interest, with travel restrictions between countries still largely in place. But the scheme also raised environmental concerns.

SIA has instead decided to let people experience the airline’s service – albeit on the ground – through three initiatives that will be launched in the coming weeks. 

Meanwhile, several other airlines are still grappling with their Covid-19 woes. The Australian aviation industry, which has seen most of its revenue wiped out with the closure of national and international borders, got some relief on Monday when the Australian government announced it will extend a Covid-19 relief package for domestic airlines by four months in its annual budget.  Pilots at Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, meanwhile, are pushing to be included in restructuring talks at the carrier.   

Also read: 

Post-Covid-19 aviation industry – nasty, brutish and short-haul

MASSIVE PROTESTS EXPECTED IN HONG KONG ON OCT 1

Hong Kong officials are preparing for another potential clash between people and the police at the start of the long weekend despite a ban on an annual long march by a key human rights group. Orders have been given for over 6,000 officers to be deployed in the city on Thursday, which is China’s National Day. Meanwhile, calls for people to join the protests continue to circulate over social media with concern prevailing over the fate of 12 Hong Kongers who illegally entered Chinese waters. Hong Kong Correspondent Claire Huang reports.

IN OTHER NEWS

SABAH’S NEW CHIEF MINISTER: Mr Hajiji Mohd Noor, a leader from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, was sworn in as the new Sabah Chief Minister today, three days after Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s loose alliance managed to wrest control of the state administration during the state polls.

CHINA FOR LOWER GROWTH GOAL: China’s leaders are poised to endorse a lower economic growth target for the country’s next five-year plan compared with 2016-2020, policy sources said. The report comes just ahead of a key meeting next month where President Xi Jinping and other leaders are expected to discuss and approve China’s economic and social development blueprint for 2021-2025.

AMNESTY HALTS INDIA OPERATIONS: Human rights group Amnesty International stopped its work in India on Tuesday (Sept 29) saying the government had frozen its bank accounts in the latest action against it for speaking out about rights violations. 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading the Asian Insider newsletter. We’ll be back with you tomorrow. 

Shefali

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