Pentagon sees coronavirus crisis lasting several months

The Pentagon is assuming the coronavirus epidemic in the United States will last at least several months, and that some countries are at risk of "political chaos," its top officials said Tuesday.

"I think we need to plan for this to be a few months long at least," US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, judging from the experience of countries like China, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Esper and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed questions from members of the US military around the world in a virtual online event.

The questions were submitted in advance and read to the Pentagon's top two civilian and military leaders by a department official.

Milley said all indications are that the US is looking at "eight to 10, maybe 12 weeks, something like three months."

"That may or may not apply to the United States. It may or may not apply to all the different countries, different circumstances. But we'll see," he said.

"If it does apply, you're looking at probably late May, June, something in that range. Maybe it could be as late as July, something like that. But we will get through it," he added.

The two men warned that the pandemic could destabilize some countries, to the point where they could present a threat to the United States.

The pandemic "could lead in some cases... to sort of breakdowns. It could lead to political chaos in certain countries. We have to be attuned to that," Milley said.

He noted that shortages of masks, gloves and respirators could have "severe internal consequences to certain countries that go well beyond the immediate medical issues."

The US will aid its allies, said Esper, but "with potential adversaries or adversaries (the coronavirus) may cause them to act out in different ways, in ways that impact our security posture, our readiness."

"So we need to be very conscious and be on the lookout for that as this unfolds," he said.

Asia virus latest: India to lockdown as China lifts some Hubei curbs
Singapore (AFP) March 24, 2020 - Here are the latest developments from Asia related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

- India to impose total lockdown -

India's 1.3 billion people will go under "total lockdown" for 21 days to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic from midnight Tuesday (1830 GMT).

"To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family... every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the world's second most-populous nation.

- China to lift Hubei travel curbs -

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.

- Month-long Singapore shutdown -

Singapore will begin a series of shutdowns, in place until at least April 30.

From Thursday, bars and other entertainment venues such as night clubs, theatres and cinemas will be closed, while mass gatherings -- including conferences, exhibitions and sporting events -- must be postponed or cancelled.

Religious gatherings will be suspended and socialising outside of school and work must be limited to 10 people.

- Australia to deploy army, ban BBQs -

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, and some of Australia's most pristine outback --- was effectively closed to non-essential travel from Tuesday afternoon.

The country also banned backyard barbecues, games of football in the park and all foreign travel, while weddings will be limited to five people and funerals to 10, as almost all mass gatherings were outlawed.

- Philippines president gets extra powers -

The country's Congress gave President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping powers to fight the virus, including to take over private buildings and vehicles to house or transport the sick, health personnel, medical supplies and equipment.

Some 55 million people in the Philippines, which has reported 552 infections and 35 deaths, have been ordered to stay at home to halt the spread of the virus.

- Thai state of emergency; Laos, Timor cases -

A state of emergency will come into force in the kingdom from Thursday after a surge in cases, the prime minister said, allowing authorities to ban people from leaving their homes.

Neighbouring Laos, one of Southeast Asia's poorest nations with an under-developed healthcare system, confirmed its first cases in two people working in tourism.

East Timor, an impoverished, half-island nation next to the vast Indonesian archipelago, reported its first case.

- South Korea help for businesses -

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".

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

- Bangladesh garment sector crisis -

The impoverished country's garment sector is facing its worst crisis in decades after Western retailers such as H&M, Walmart and Tesco cancelled orders worth over $2 billion, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

- Macau imposes 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 casino industry suffering its worst monthly downturn on record in February.

- Pakistan officials suspended over virus selfie -

Pakistan has suspended six civil servants after they posed for a selfie with a coronavirus patient in a quarantine centre, an official said.

The selfie -- widely shared on social media -- pictured a group of men around the apparent patient, several of them smiling broadly and none wearing face masks.

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US and China trade barbs over coronavirus
Beijing (AFP) March 17, 2020
US President Donald Trump doubled down Tuesday on calling the coronavirus spreading rapidly across the world the "Chinese Virus," despite protests from Beijing. "It did come from China, so I think it's very accurate," Trump told a news conference, defending tweets in which he used the label for the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump indicated that another motive was payback for what he said was China's disinformation campaign blaming the US military for the virus. "China was putting out information wh ... read more

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Pentagon sees coronavirus crisis lasting several months Pentagon sees coronavirus crisis lasting several months Reviewed by Unknown on 04:46:00 Rating: 5

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