SINGAPORE/TAIPEI -- Just as Asian nations are scrambling to cope with the quickly-spreading new coronavirus thought to have originated in Wuhan, China, some unreliable news reports are complicating their efforts to contain the illness.
Singapore's health ministry said Monday it had issued a correction directive to a website that reported a 66-year-old man had died from the Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore. It was the latest use of the country's "fake news" law, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act.
The website, HardwareZone, is operated by SPH Magazines, a subsidiary of local media group Singapore Press Holdings. The publisher has complied with the order.
Singapore also said Monday that it will consider measures to alleviate the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus on the local economy such as the tourism-related industry.
Speaking during a press conference by the government's task force on the coronavirus, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said, "There will certainly be an impact on the country's economy, business and consumer confidence this year, especially as the situation is expected to persist for some time."
He said the government is working to develop the necessary support measures, such as a property tax rebate so that businesses can reduce costs and avoid insolvency or retrenchment.
Singapore has reported four confirmed cases of the virus infection, all Chinese nationals from Wuhan, but no deaths. "We must take swift action against such falsehoods. Otherwise, there is a grave risk that they will spread and cause panic amongst our citizens," S Iswaran, minister for communications and information, said during the task force's press conference.
The Chinese government on Sunday said it will extend the Lunar New Year holidays until Feb. 2. The holidays were supposed to end this Thursday. The death toll relating to the coronavirus was 80 as of Jan. 27, with more than 2,700 confirmed cases worldwide.
Taiwan on Sunday said the island's Mainland Affairs Council is making the request to China through Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation but so far they have not heard any response from China. There are about 300 Taiwanese still in Wuhan, according to the council. The council is planning to bring them back to Taiwan via charter flight or other possible ways.
Taiwan also said it will block the entry of Chinese from Hubei Province. The government advised Chinese students studying in Taiwan and had gone home for holidays to postpone their return to Taiwan by two weeks. The government also said that Chinese spouses who returned to Taiwan from Hubei Province should conduct self-quarantine in their homes for two weeks.
Attempts to block the entry of Chinese people from Wuhan were seen elsewhere as well.
Philippine authorities on Sunday decided to indefinitely halt flights that connect the island of Panai and Wuhan. But they said chartered flights for about 500 Chinese on the island would be allowed to return home on Monday.