81ºF

Asia Today: India's virus cases jump with another daily high

SEOUL – India has reported a daily record of nearly 20,000 new infections as several Indian states reimpose partial or full lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

India’s health ministry has recorded 548,318 COVID-19 total cases as of Monday, a jump of nearly 100,000 in a week in the world’s fourth-worst affected country after the United States, Brazil and Russia. India’s death toll has reached 16,475, while 321,723 patients have recovered from the disease.

The capital district of the northeastern state of Assam on the Bangladesh border has reimposed a full lockdown until July 12 following a spike in cases. Another border state, West Bengal, has extended its lockdown until July 31.

However, in India’s worst-affected states, Maharashtra, which includes India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and Delhi, home to the federal capital of New Delhi, most lockdown restrictions have been eased, with restaurants, shopping malls and parks reopened, and public buses and shared-ride services back on the roads.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Fans of South Korea’s pro sports may be required to wear masks and will be discouraged from shouting or eating food when they possibly return to the stands in coming weeks. Jung Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said such measures are being discussed as health authorities and the sports ministry map out plans for spectators to return to sports. The plans could be announced as early as this week. Jeong said it will be crucial for the leagues to enforce distance between the fans. Limits on attendance could be eased as the country’s anti-virus efforts progress. South Korea’s professional baseball and soccer leagues returned to action in May without spectators. The discussions of fans' return come despite a resurgence of the virus in the Seoul area. South Korea on Monday reported 42 new infections, and authorities are considering stronger social restrictions if if the epidemic continues to grow.

— Philippine officials say authorities in a central village may face criminal or administrative complaints for allowing a street parade and dance despite a strict coronavirus lockdown. Mayor Edgar Labella of Cebu city said officials of Basak village have been ordered to explain why the religious fiesta in honor of St. John the Baptist was held Saturday despite a prohibition against public gatherings. Performers in native wear and face masks danced during the night procession, which drew a large crowd. While the Philippines has eased quarantine restrictions in most regions, Cebu city is under a strict lockdown following a spike in infections. The Philippines has more than 35,000 virus cases, including 1,244 deaths.

— Health authorities are using a saliva test while working against a coronavirus outbreak in Australia’s second-largest city. The test appears to be less accurate than the nasal swab but is a more comfortable option. Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the situation in Melbourne is “a genuine challenge now,” in part because the better situation elsewhere in Australia makes it harder to tell people to stay vigilant. Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said on Monday that 75 people had tested positive in the state in the latest 24 hours. She said the saliva test was first used in a Melbourne suburban hot spot on Sunday. The saliva tests in research were only 87% as accurate as the nasal swab because saliva contains less virus than the throat, said Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, which developed the saliva test being used.

— China reported a further decline in new cases, with just 12. Seven of those were locally spread cases in Beijing, where nearly 8.3 million people have been tested in recent weeks. The number of new cases in the city was down by half from the day before, the National Health Commission reported. Beijing temporarily shut a huge wholesale food market where the virus spread widely earlier this month, reclosed schools and locked down some neighborhoods. Anyone leaving Beijing is required to have a negative virus test during the previous seven days.

— Japan’s capital reported 58 new coronavirus cases on Monday, as the number remains near recent highs and a top government official said the trend doesn’t look good. Sixty new cases were reported on Sunday, the highest since early May and nearly twice the 31 five days ago. About half of the recently confirmed cases were among staff or customers of Tokyo’s nightlife districts. “We are closely watching the latest development,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said. “Frankly, this gives me a rather bad feeling.” He said he plans to meet with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike to discuss the situation. Nishimura said on Sunday that the uptrend was due in part to expanded testing of nightclub staff and there was no immediate plan to reissue requests for business closures. The new cases bring Tokyo’s total infections to 6,172 with 325 deaths — about one third the national total.

— Thailand’s coronavirus response agency has suggested a very limited reopening of the country to foreign visitors that would not yet include the resumption of regularly scheduled passenger flights. The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration announced Monday it wants to allow the entry of a maximum 200 foreigners daily who would be able to travel on repatriation flights that bring Thai citizens home. The measures will be implemented Wednesday if the Cabinet approves them on Tuesday. Foreigners including those legally working in Thailand and their families, those with residence permits, spouses and children of Thais, medical tourists and students would be confined at government quarantine facilities for 14 days after arrival. Businesspeople, technical experts and investors from Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore would have to stay at officially approved hotels and travel in specially arranged transport with escorts. Other recommended measures include allowing pubs, nightclubs and massage parlors to reopen. They are considered to have a higher coronavirus risk than restaurants, which were already allowed to reopen.