Xinhua Asia-Pacific news summary at 1600 GMT, Dec. 18

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DHAKA -- Bangladesh Friday again extended the closure time of educational institutions, except madrasas (Islamic religious schools), following a fresh surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the current cold weather.

Bangladesh's Ministry of Education said in a statement that the government extended the closure of all educational institutions till Jan. 16 next year.

Previously the closure was extended in phases till Dec. 19. (Bangladesh-Education)

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TOKYO -- Japan on Friday confirmed 2,827 new daily COVID-19 cases, bringing the nation's cumulative total of people infected to 193,755, not including those related to a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier in the year.

The latest figure follows an all-time high of more than 3,200 infections nationwide reached the previous day, with the country's capital city also reporting a record 822 new coronavirus infections amid heightened concerns about the growing strain on the medical system. (Japan-COVID-19)

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KUALA LUMPUR -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Friday that it is projecting the Malaysian economy to rebound by 7 percent in 2021, supported by both domestic and external demand.

Exports, which were propped up in 2020 by strong pandemic-related demand for personal protective equipment and electronic products, will continue to underpin growth, said the IMF in a statement. (Malaysia-Economy)

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NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday strongly defended the three contentious farm laws and accused the opposition parties of betraying and misleading the farmers.

The farm laws have triggered massive protests in and outside India's national capital of Delhi, with thousands of farmers occupying roads.

Friday marks the 23rd straight day of the protests. (India-Farm laws)

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KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia reported 1,683 new COVID-19 infections, the health ministry said on Friday, bringing the national total to 90,816.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that eight of the new cases are imported and 1,675 are local transmissions.

No new deaths have been reported, leaving the death toll at 432. (Malaysia-COVID-19)

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HONG KONG -- Director-General of Civil Aviation of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government Victor Liu has been elected as the chairperson of the Regional Aviation Safety Group - Asia Pacific Region (RASG-APAC) of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at an online conference.

The election of Liu as the chairperson is a recognition of Hong Kong's efforts in and commitment to aviation safety through its continued collaboration with the ICAO, aviation regulators and industry partners in the international aviation community, the HKSAR government said. (Hong Kong-Aviation)

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KUALA LUMPUR -- The recognition of the Wangchuan ceremony, jointly nominated by Malaysia and China, in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity reflected the strong historic ties between the two countries and would further promote people to people exchange, Malaysian government officials and participants of the joint efforts said.

During the online meeting of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage on Thursday, "Wangchuan ceremony and related practices for maintaining the sustainable connection between man and the ocean" was included as intangible cultural heritage items on the UNESCO list. (Malaysia-UNESCO) Enditem

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