Asia Today: 4th-worst-hit India sees rural virus cases soar

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People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus pray during a service at the Chogyesa temple in South Korea, Monday, June 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL – India’s coronavirus caseload has risen to 425,282 as infections soar in rural areas to which migrant workers fleeing major cities have returned in recent weeks.

India’s health ministry on Monday reported 14,821 new cases and about 300 new deaths, bring the toll of fatalities up to more than 13,000. The coastal state of Goa reported its first COVID-19 death.

India is the fourth most-affected country globally after the United States, Brazil and Russia.

India’s government planning body Niti Aayog says infections have now emerged in 98 out of 112 of the country’s poorest districts.

The Indian government ran special trains to bring thousands of migrant workers back to their ancestral villages in recent weeks.

Still, about 60% of India’s cases have been reported in the states of Delhi, which includes the national capital of New Delhi; Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai; and Tamil Nadu, where manufacturing hub Chennai is located.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— The chairman of a chain of pharmacies in Beijing has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling more than 500,000 counterfeit 3M Corp. masks during the coronavirus epidemic, news reports said Monday. Two people who colluded with Li Dong, chairman of Kang Baixin Pharmacy, also were sentenced to prison by the Chaoyang District Court, the Beijing News and other outlets reported, citing unidentified sources. There was no announcement from the court and phone calls to its press office weren’t answered. Li and co-defendants Li Yuzhang and Luo Hanyi were convicted of buying fake 3M masks and re-selling them to pharmacies or individuals, the news reports said. They said the defendants all denied the charges and said they would appeal their conviction.