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Food delivery drivers keep a safe distance as they await customer orders at Central Plaza Pinklao in Bangkok on March 24. Safety measures such as social distancing became commonplace worldwide. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

2020 in pictures: A year of coronavirus, shifting politics and more

A selection of striking images from across Asia, and the stories behind them

YUKI KOHARA, Nikkei Asia photo editor | East Asia

TOKYO -- From coronavirus and regime change to natural disasters and political unrest, 2020 was year of gripping events in Asia.

Here we look back at the year in pictures, and the stories behind them.


  © AFP/Jiji

Wuhan Hygiene Emergency Response Team staff leave the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei Province, on Jan. 11. The new, deadly type of coronavirus emerged in the city at the beginning of the year and spread worldwide.

(Photo by Akira Kodaka) 

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen celebrates at a rally after Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party emerged victorious in the national elections, in Taipei on Jan. 11.

  © Reuters

Excavators and bulldozers work at the site of a new hospital being built to treat coronavirus patients on the outskirts of Wuhan, China, on Jan. 24. As the coronavirus outbreak grew progressively worse, the Chinese government imposed a lockdown on Wuhan.

  © Reuters

A pharmacy in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Jan. 28. Panic buying led to shortages of personal protective equipment such as face masks and hand sanitizer.


  © EPA/Jiji

Medical personnel work in the intensive care unit of a hospital designated for COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 24. By the end of February, there had been over 2,660 deaths due to coronavirus in China.


(Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

A woman passes empty shelves at a supermarket in Tokyo in March. Hoarding led to shortages of food supplies.

  © Reuters

A woman waits for customers at a beach in Da Nang, Vietnam, on March 6. Tourism took a massive hit amid travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A woman closes the door to her house as a worker sprays disinfectant in a slum in San Juan, Metro Manila, on March 23. The Philippine government sealed off Luzon, the country's largest and most populous island, to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Land, sea and air travel was suspended, and government offices, schools, businesses and public transportation were ordered shut to keep some 55 million people at home.

  © Reuters

A man looks at an information board displaying cancelled flights after Malaysia closed its borders to slow the spread of the coronavirus, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, on March 18.

(Photo by Akira Kodaka) 

Bangkok's Khaosan Road, normally full of tourists, is deserted on April 14.


  © Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping casts his vote on the national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 28. The government said the new law will return stability to the city, while critics said it effectively curtails protest and freedom of speech.

  © AP

Migrant workers board buses to return to their home states, at Dharavi, one of Asia's largest slums, in Mumbai, India on May 22. India eased its lockdown on May 4 to allow migrant workers to return to their homes.

  © Reuters

Pilots wearing face masks wait at Hong Kong International Airport on May 7.

(Photo by Hirofumi Yamamoto)

Medical workers react as they watch the Blue-Impulse aerobatic team of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force fly over the Self-Defense Forces Central Hospital to salute frontline medical workers in the fight against COVID-19, in Tokyo, Japan, on May 29.


  © Reuters

Stranded passengers, whose flights were cancelled because of restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, take shelter under the NAIA Expressway outside Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila, the Philippines, June 11.

  © Korean Central News Agency/Kyodo

North Korea's joint liaison office with South Korea in the border town of Kaesong is destroyed in an explosion on June 16. North Korea blew up the office just hours after the North renewed threats of military action at the Korean border. The site was opened in 2018 to help the Koreas -- officially in a state of war -- to communicate better. It had been empty since January due to Covid-19 restrictions.


  © Xinhua/Getty Images

A monitor shows "+1" and "TOKYO2020" during the "One Step Forward -- TOKYO 2020" video unveiling event at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 23. To mark one year until the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee released a video featuring a message of support for all athletes aiming to participate at next year's games.

(Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

A screen in downtown Tokyo shows a countdown of the days until the Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The pandemic put the future of the Tokyo Olympic Games in doubt.

  © Reuters

Riot police officers confront protesters during the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong on July 1. Thousands of protesters took to the streets to vent their anger at Beijing's passing of the sweeping national security law for the territory on June 30. Police fired tear gas and pepper balls, and deployed a water cannon to disperse the demonstrators.

  © Reuters

Buildings and fields lie partially submerged in floodwaters following heavy rainfall in Poyang County of Jiangxi Province, China, on July 17. Floods overwhelmed parts of central and eastern China, and several dams across Lake Poyang, the country's largest fresh water lake, burst as the lake reached record water levels.


  © AP

A temporary field hospital set up at Asia World Expo in Hong Kong awaits patients on Aug. 1. The facility, which can accommodate up to 500 patients, is near Hong Kong International Airport, and was previously used as a coronavirus testing center for incoming travelers.

(Photo by Lauren DeCicca)

A bar girl buys a pineapple on empty Soi Cowboy in Bangkok in August. The street in Bangkok's red light district is normally bustling with tourists and expatriates.

  © AP

Paramilitary policemen clean up a street after floodwaters receded in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality on Aug. 21. The widespread flooding in China severely affected large areas of the country and was the worst since at least 1998. The floodwaters killed at least 219 people and displaced over 46 million.


(Photo by Uichiro Kasai) 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga celebrate after Suga was elected head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Tokyo on Sept. 14.

  © Reuters

Pakistani students have their temperature checked before entering a classroom, after the government allowed the reopening of schools from grade six to eight amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Sept. 23.


  © EPA/Jiji

Students clash with riot police during a rally against the government in Jakarta on Oct. 8. Indonesian laborers across the country held strikes from October 6-8 after parliament passed the Omnibus Law on job creation.

  © Reuters

North Korean troops parade as part of celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in this image released by North Korea's Central News Agency on Oct. 10.

(Photo by Dimas Ardian)

Street performers stand in front of a mask-awareness poster featuring Indonesian President Joko Widodo, in Bandung, Indonesia, on Oct. 16, 2020. 

(Photo by Vann Soben)

Children and their mothers line up in front of the Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital in Phenom Penh, Cambodia, in the early morning of Oct. 19.

  © Reuters

Cathay Pacific aircraft are parked on the tarmac at Hong Kong International Airport on Oct. 24. The Cathay Pacific airline group announced a corporate restructuring in response to the COVID-19 economic crisis, which includes cutting 8,500 jobs and shutting down its regional airline Cathay Dragon.


  © AP

A giant TV screen broadcasts images of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden at a shopping mall in Beijing on Nov. 8. World leaders cheered Biden's election as U.S. president as a chance to enhance cooperation on climate change, the coronavirus and other problems, after four years of President Donald Trump's rejection of international alliances.

  © Reuters

Supporters of Myanmar's National League for Democracy celebrate at party headquarters after the general election in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9. The party won a resounding victory in the country's national election, claiming 920 of the 1,117 seats available in the local and national parliaments and improving on its 2015 landslide.

  © Reuters

Protesters carry inflatable ducks during a pro-democracy rally in Bangkok on Nov. 29. Thousands of protesters marched to demand constitutional changes, reforms to the monarchy and the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

  © Reuters

ASEAN leaders appear on a monitor as they attend the 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Summit as part of the 37th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on Nov. 15. Fifteen Asia-Pacific nations signed the RCEP treaty, which will become the world's largest free trade agreement, covering nearly a third of the world's population and about 30% of its global gross domestic product.


  © AP

A container containing an experimental coronavirus vaccine made by Chinese company Sinovac waits to be loaded onto a Garuda Indonesia plane at Beijing International Airport on Dec. 6. Indonesia said more than a million doses had arrived in the country and more were expected in early January.

  © Reuters

Researchers work around the Chang'e-5 lunar return capsule next to a Chinese national flag, after it landed in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Dec. 17 with a cargo of rock and soil from the Moon. For China, the successful Chang'e-5 mission is another demonstration of the country's increasing capability in space.

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