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From The Asian Reporter, V30, #08 (July 6, 2020), page 2.

South Korea weighs listing churches as "high risk"

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea is considering including religious facilities on the same list with nightclubs, hostess bars, and karaoke rooms as "high risk" venues for the spread of COVID-19 following a slew of transmissions tied to church gatherings. South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a recent virus meeting that more than 40% of the country’s newly confirmed infections late in June were traced back to places of worship. He pleaded with people to refrain from religious gatherings and criticized churches and other facilities for failing to implement proper preventive measures, such as requiring followers to wear masks and sit apart during services. "If religious facilities continue to be an environment for infections by failing to implement anti-virus measures, it will be inevitable for the government to designate (them) as high-risk facilities and enforce strong restrictions," Chung said. High-risk facilities are advised to close or otherwise must enforce anti-virus measures, including distancing, temperature checks, keeping customer lists, and requiring employees and visitors to wear masks. They are also required to register visitors with smartphone QR codes so they could be easily located when needed.

100s of unpaid soccer players seek help from FIFA fund

ZURICH (AP) — A $16 million Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) fund to pay soccer players whose clubs disbanded leaving wages unpaid has had 441 applications. FIFA said 89% of cases, more than 390 players, involved European clubs and the other 11% were spread worldwide. The fund was launched in February with the global group of players’ unions, FIFPro, which warned that some clubs closed down to avoid paying wages then re-started as a new operation. FIFA and FIFPro said the money could be "an important safety net" though it was unable to cover all salaries owed. FIFA set aside $5 million for retrospective claims dating from July 2015 to the end of June. A further $11 million is allocated for the next three years.

India bans dozens of Chinese apps, citing security reasons

NEW DELHI (AP) — India has banned 59 apps with Chinese links, saying their activities endanger the country’s sovereignty, defense, and security. India’s decision came as its troops are involved in a tense standoff with Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh in the Himalayas that started in May. India lost 20 soldiers in a June 15 clash. The banned apps include TikTok, UC Browser WeChat, and Bigo Live, as well as e-commerce platforms Club Factory and Shein, that are used in mobile and non-mobile devices connected to the internet, according to a government statement. It said there have been mounting concerns about data security and safeguarding the privacy of 1.3 billion Indians. The government said such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of the country. "The Ministry of Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India," the statement said. The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security, and the defense of India was "a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures," the statement said.

Indonesia cancels hajj pilgrimage due to coronavirus

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s government decided not to participate in this year’s hajj pilgrimage because of the coronavirus outbreak, an official confirmed in early June. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, normally sends the largest contingent to the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It was expected to send 221,000 pilgrims this year. Razi said pilgrimages held during past disease outbreaks resulted in tragedies in which tens of thousands of people became victims. "In 1814 for example, when the Thaun outbreak occurred, also in 1837 and 1858 there was an epidemic outbreak, cholera outbreak in 1892, and during the meningitis outbreak in 1987," he said. Indonesia has more than 63,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 3,100 deaths.

Workers killed in pharmaceutical plant gas leak

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — At least two workers were killed and four others sickened by a gas that leaked from a pharmaceutical plant in an Indian industrial city where another fatal gas leak occurred about two months ago. "The fire brigade immediately reached the scene and plugged the leak," police commissioner Rajeev Kumar Meena said of the incident that occurred around 2:00am at the Sainor Life Sciences pharmaceutical plant in Visakhapatnam in India’s Andhra Pradesh state. The injured workers were hospitalized and in stable condition, authorities said. Benzimedazole, a chemical compound found in many antifungal and antiparasitic drugs that contains cancer-causing benzene, was released in a gas form, Meena said. An investigation was ordered to establish the cause of the leak. In May, another industrial accident in the same city killed 12 people, and about 1,000 others were hospitalized due to exposure from the gas in the community around a plastics factory. Styrene gas leaked from the LG Polymers’ plant in Visakhapatnam as workers restarted the plant after a six-week coronavirus lockdown ended. The latest incident is likely to add more grist to local public demand for closure or shifting of hazardous industries outside city limits.