23 March 2020
ABE: OLYMPICS COULD BE POSTPONED
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said postponing the Olympic Games
could become an option if it was not possible to hold it in its "complete
He said the country might have "no option but to consider postponing the
games", but added that cancellation was not an option.
This is a dramatic shift from what he had said earlier last week. He had
then confidently announced that Japan would "overcome the spread of the
infection and host the Olympics without problem".
The Olympics are due to be held in the capital Tokyo this July.
IRAN LEADER REFUSES US HELP; CITES CORONAVIRUS CONSPIRACY THEORY
Iran's supreme leader refused American assistance to fight the new
coronavirus citing a conspiracy theory claiming it could be man-made by the
United States government.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments came on Sunday as Iran faces crushing US
sanctions blocking the country from selling its crude oil and accessing
international financial markets.
While Iranian officials in recent days have increasingly criticised those
sanctions, 80-year-old Khamenei instead echoed Chinese officials about the
possible origin of the coronavirus.
"I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their
right mind would trust you to bring them medication?" Khamenei said.
"Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more."
He also alleged the virus "is specifically built for Iran using the genetic
data of Iranians, which they have obtained through different means".
"You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to
come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person,"
STRONG QUAKE SHAKES CROATIA, DAMAGING BUILDINGS IN CAPITAL
A strong earthquake shook Croatia and its capital on Sunday, causing panic,
the evacuation of hospitals and widespread damage - including to the city's
iconic cathedral - all amid a partial coronavirus lockdown.
The European seismological agency, EMSC, said the earthquake measured 5.3
and struck a wide area north of the capital, Zagreb, at 6.23 am. (0523 GMT)
Sunday. The epicenter was 7 km (4 miles) north of Zagreb at a depth of 10
kilometers (6 miles).
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said earthquake was the biggest in Zagreb in
the past 140 years.
N. KOREA SAYS TRUMP'S LETTER OFFERS ANTI-VIRUS COOPERATION
President Donald Trump sent a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim
Jong Un, seeking to maintain good relations and offering cooperation in
fighting the viral pandemic, Kim's sister said Sunday.
The latest correspondence came as Mr. Kim observed the firing of tactical
guided weapons over the weekend, drawing criticism from South Korea, as the
nuclear talks remain deadlocked.
In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, Mr. Kim's sister
and senior ruling party official, Ms. Kim Yo Jong, praised Mr. Trump for
sending the letter at a time when "big difficulties and challenges lie ahead
in the way of developing ties" between the countries.
In the letter, she said Mr. Trump explained his plan to "propel the
relations between the two countries ... and expressed his intent to render
cooperation in the anti-epidemic work" in an apparent reference to the
global coronavirus outbreak. She said her brother expressed his gratitude
for Trump's letter.
North Korea has repeatedly said there hasn't been a single case of the
coronavirus on its soil. Some foreign experts question that claim and say an
outbreak in the North could cause a humanitarian disaster because of its
poor medical infrastructure. Last month, the State Department expressed
concerns about North Korea's vulnerability to a potential coronavirus
outbreak and said it was ready to support efforts by aid organizations to
contain the spread of the illness in the North.
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
MALAYSIA WORSHIPPERS GETTING SCREENED, EVENT ORGANISER SAYS AFTER
CORONAVIRUS CASES SPIKE
Worshippers who attended a mass religious event in Malaysia that is now
linked to 840 coronavirus cases across Southeast Asia are cooperating with
authorities, an organiser said, after the government said thousands of them
were still being traced.
The four-day Islamic gathering held at a mosque near the Malaysian capital
Kuala Lumpur is connected to 60% of all the 1,183 cases in the country - the
highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, which has a total of more
than 3,000 cases.
Malaysia has also recorded eight deaths.
The government said on Thursday that it had yet to trace 4,000 of the 14,500
Malaysian residents who attended. The health ministry said on Saturday it
expected the number of cases to spike next week as it tried to track down
unscreened participants of the Feb. 27-March 1 religious event.
"After hearing reports of thousands or participants yet to be screened, many
had returned to their district health departments or hospitals repeatedly
until their names and details were recorded," Abdullah Cheong, a leader of
the event's organising team, said in a statement on Saturday.
"We are prepared and have given our full commitment to help the authorities
deal with the pandemic."
He also said 12,500 people attended the gathering, including foreigners and
200 Rohingya refugees. Previous reports have put the number at 16,000.
The government has also said that it would deploy the army on Sunday to help
the police enforce a two-week curb on travel and movements that began on
IRAN, FRANCE CARRY OUT PRISONER SWAP
Iranian authorities have released French academic Roland Marchal, who has
been imprisoned in Iran since June 2019, a French presidency official said
Mr. Marchal is due to arrive in France around midday on Saturday, the
French President Emmanuel Macron urged Iran to also release French citizen
Fariba Adelkhah, who is still imprisoned, the official added.
Iran and France have agreed to swap Mr. Marchal, held on security charges,
and an Iranian detained by Paris over alleged violations of U.S. sanctions
against Tehran, Iranian state media reported on Friday. France has released
Jalal Ruhollahnejad, an Iranian engineer wanted by U.S. authorities over
sanctions charges, state broadcaster IRIB has reported.