Asia Today: India's virus death toll rises, Seoul cases jump

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A street sweeper checks his mobile phone as he takes a break near a coronavirus-themed mural in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Indonesia's only vaccine production company has started this week a so-called phase 3 clinical trials to test a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by a Chinese company. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

SEOUL – India’s coronavirus death toll overtook Britain's to become the fourth-highest in the world with another single-day record increase in cases Friday.

According to the Health Ministry, India reported 1,007 deaths in the past 24 hours. Its total rose to 48,040 deaths, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

India’s confirmed cases reached 2,461,190 with at single-day spike of 64,553 cases reported in the past 24 hours, the ministry said. India is behind the United States and Brazil in total positive cases. More than 70% of people infected in India have recovered.

The daily increase in newly reported infections was around 15,000 in the first week of July but jumped to more than 50,000 in the first week of August. The ministry cited its testing efforts, with more than 800,000 tests in a single day, taking cumulative tests to more than 26 million.

Health experts say it needs to be higher, given India's population of 1.4 billion.

India’s two-month lockdown imposed nationwide in late March kept infections low. But it has eased and is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas. The new cases spiked after India reopened shops and manufacturing and allowed hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to return to their homes from coronavirus-hit regions.

Subways, schools and movie theaters remain closed.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— South Korea reported 103 new virus cases, one of its biggest daily jumps in months, as officials express concerned that infections are getting out of control in cities. Eighty-three of the new cases were from the Seoul area, and infections were also reported in Busan, Gwangju and Ulsan. Lee Jae-myung, governor of Gyeonggi province near Seoul, issued an administrative order to shut down the province’s 15,779 religious facilities, mostly Christian churches, for two weeks to slow the spread of the virus. Churches have emerged as major sources of infections after many of them failed to require worshipers to wear masks or allowed them to sing in choirs or eat together in diners. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said authorities will be forced to consider elevating social distancing measures if transmissions continue to rise. That may include bans on large gatherings, shutting “high-risk” facilities such as karaoke bars and again banning spectators from sports stadiums.

— North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lifted a lockdown at a major city near the border with South Korea where thousands had been quarantined for weeks over coronavirus worries. But Kim also at a ruling party meeting insisted the North will keep its borders shut. State media reported Kim said the virus situation in Kaesong was stable and expressed gratitude to residents for cooperating with the lockdown. The lockdown was based on a suspected virus case but North Korea later said the person’s test results were inconclusive.

— New Zealand’s government has extended a lockdown of its largest city Auckland for another 12 days as it tries to stamp out its first domestic coronavirus outbreak in more than three months. The outbreak has grown to 30 people and extended beyond Auckland for the first time. Until the cluster was discovered Tuesday, New Zealand had gone 102 days without infections spreading in the community, with the only known cases travelers quarantined after arriving from abroad. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says extending the lockdown will give health authorities time to get a handle on the cluster and isolate those infected.

— A man in his 20s has become the youngest person to die of the coronavirus in Australia. He was among 14 new deaths and 372 new infections reported by Victoria state health officials Friday in an outbreak centered in Melbourne, the second-largest city. And Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 188 elderly people had died over the past week as the virus ripped through aged-care homes in Melbourne. Officials say about 70% of Australia’s 375 virus deaths have been at aged-care facilities. Morrison said that Australians had high expectations of the services and standards at aged-care homes and other facilities like hospitals and schools. “On the days that the system falls short, on the days that expectations are not met, I’m deeply sorry about that, of course I am,” Morrison said.

— China reported eight new cases in the northwestern region of Xinjiang where the country’s latest major outbreak has been largely contained. Another 22 new cases reported Friday by the National Health Commission were Chinese travelers returning home. Hong Kong reported another 69 cases and three deaths over the past 24 hours. The semi-autonomous Chinese city has required masks be worn in all public settings, restricted indoor dining and enacted other social distancing measures to bring down transmissions.