A medical worker wearing full protective gear takes a swab sample from a journalist to be tested for Covid-19, nine hours before the press conference of China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi during the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on May 24, 2020. Photo: AFP

China’s communist rulers avoided setting an annual growth target for the first time in decades, as they struggle to deal with the “immense” economic challenges caused by the pandemic.

Analysts say the move points to China missing its key political goal of doubling GDP from 2010 levels, a blow to the ruling party’s pledge to provide prosperity in exchange for unquestioned political power.

Olympics official sees ‘real problems’ in holding Games in 2021  

A senior Olympics official has warned that holding the postponed Tokyo Games next year faces “real problems,” with even a vaccine unlikely to stave off the threat of the coronavirus.

John Coates, the International Olympic Committee’s pointman for Tokyo 2020, indicated that officials would start deciding in October if and how the Games could go ahead in July 2021.

Australia extends cruise ship ban

Australia extended its ban on most international cruise ships for three months until mid-September, making no mention of a hoped-for exemption for travel to neighboring New Zealand.

The ban applies to any cruise liner capable of carrying more than 100 passengers, the Australian Border Force said in a statement.

No kissing the bride as Sri Lanka lifts wedding ban

Sri Lanka lifted a ban on wedding receptions as part of easing coronavirus restrictions, but health authorities said grooms may not kiss the bride – at least in public.

Other guests too were barred from kissing, hugging or even shaking hands as part of new guidelines under which weddings and other receptions are allowed in areas where curfews are relaxed.

India central bank slashes rates, warns of contraction

India’s central bank slashed interest rates in an effort to contain the economic fallout of the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown and warned the economy could contract this year.

Even before almost all activity shut down in late March, Asia’s third-largest economy was struggling to gain traction with sluggish growth, record unemployment and banks reluctant to lend.

Singapore cases jump above 30,000

Singapore reported 614 new virus cases, taking its total to 30,426 including 23 deaths, with the vast majority of infections linked to dormitories housing low-paid foreign workers.

The city-state initially managed to keep its outbreak in check but was hit by a fast-moving second wave of cases mainly centred on the dorms. 

Myanmar editor jailed for two years for virus error

A Myanmar news editor has been jailed for two years after his agency reported a coronavirus death that turned out to be false, his lawyer said.

Chief editor Zaw Ye Htet was arrested May 13, the same day his online news agency Dae Pyaw published an erroneous article alleging there had been a Covid-19 death in eastern Karen state.

Eid shopping rush across Asia despite virus risk

Muslims across Asia have packed out markets as they prepare for the annual Eid al-Fitr holiday, ignoring coronavirus guidelines even as infections rise. 

The celebration, the most important in the Muslim calendar marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, is preceded by a rush to buy new clothes, gifts and sweet treats for loved ones.

Afghan cyclist in ‘door-to-door’ campaign

Afghan cyclist Idrees Syawash is determined to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, so he pedals across rural areas encouraging people to wear masks and wash their hands.

“When coronavirus came to Afghanistan, I went to some villages and saw that people were not aware of it at all,” Syawash, 27, told AFP as he travelled across the eastern province of Nangarhar this week.

“I decided to use my bicycle… to launch a door-to-door awareness campaign.”