South Korea on Thursday reported fewer than 200 new Covid-19 cases for the first time in more than two weeks but authorities remain on high alert after the number of seriously ill patients increased and a new cluster of infections was identified in a kimchi factory.
The country reported 195 new cases, including 188 local infections, increasing its total caseload to 20,644, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said. However, the number of patients in serious or critical condition increased by 31 to 154, a new high.
“The virus is spreading across the country, with sporadic clusters occurring at religious facilities, gyms, hospitals and schools,” said Yoon Tae-ho, a senior Health Ministry official.
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Among those new clusters, a kimchi factory in the southwestern county of Cheongyang has emerged as a new hotbed, with 18 people there testing positive. Authorities have recalled and will dispose of 50 tonnes of kimchi produced between August 28 and September 2.
The greater Seoul region has been subject to the country’s tightest restrictions, including reduced operating hours for restaurants and the closure of sites deemed “high-risk”, such as karaoke rooms, clubs, internet cafes and buffet eateries. Authorities will decide this weekend whether to extend those restrictions into next week.
The measures were imposed to curb the latest outbreak of coronavirus and reduce daily increases to fewer than 100, which health authorities consider manageable without the country’s health care system being overwhelmed. Fewer than 10 intensive-care beds were available in the greater Seoul area, a metropolis of 26 million people, as of Tuesday, health authorities said.
The Health Ministry said on Thursday it will spend 100 billion won (US$84 million) to acquire 500 beds for severely ill patients nationwide by the middle of next year, aiming to secure at least 110 by the end of the month. South Korea has 511 critical-care beds, mostly at public hospitals in Seoul and surrounding regions.
India registers record 24-hour surge
A record surge of 83,883 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours has taken India’s Covid-19 tally past the 3.8-million mark, government data showed on Thursday.
It is the highest single-day jump reported by any country since the beginning of the pandemic and brings India close to surpassing Brazil as the second-most-affected country in the world.
The total number of infections in the country now stands at 3,853,406 and the death toll had risen to 67,376, with 1,043 additional fatalities since Wednesday, the Health Ministry said.
Health officials say that India, the world‘s second-most-populous country, has “one of the lowest Covid-19 fatality rates in the world”, with the proportion declining to 1.76 per cent against a global average of 3.3 per cent.
India has significantly ramped up its testing – 1.17 million samples were tested in the highest number of tests per day so far. A total of 45.5 million tests have been carried out overall, the ministry said.
Singapore finds new clusters in ‘cleared’ workers’ dorms
Singapore has found three new virus clusters in migrant worker dormitories previously declared cleared of Covid-19, reviving concerns over a source of infections that has challenged the city state’s containment strategy.
The health ministry announced 49 new cases on Wednesday, of which 43 were people living in the dormitories. Of the dormitory cases, 14 were contacts of earlier cases and already quarantined, with 29 detected through surveillance testing, it said.
The persistent infections at the facilities come even after a concerted effort by authorities over months to clear them of the virus through aggressive testing and quarantines. On August 19, the manpower ministry said all workers living in dormitories have either recovered or have been tested to be free from the virus.
The recurrence of infections in the dorms means that thousands of workers have had to be placed on stay-home notice again, while some work sites have had to pause their projects to disinfect areas and review safe management measures. As part of these measures, employers have to ensure that dorm workers as well as those in the construction sectors go for routine testing every 14 days, but implementation of this has been a challenge.
Cases surge in Australian hotspot
In Australia, the state of Victoria on Thursday reported a triple-digit rise in new Covid-19 infections for the first time in four days, denting optimism that a second wave of cases had been contained.
Victoria said 113 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours, increased from the 90 infections reported on Wednesday.
Australia has now recorded more than 26,000 Covid-19 cases, while the death toll rose to 678 after 15 people in Victoria state died from the virus.
Victoria’s capital Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, is in its fifth week of a six-week lockdown. Authorities are expected to detail a timetable for easing curbs on Sunday.
Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters that while the restrictions were tough, moving too fast would see the state lose its hard-won gains. The state reported 113 new virus cases in the past 24 hours, down from a peak of 687 on August 4.
“If we open too fast, if we open too much too soon, [virus numbers will explode],” he said.
Although strict restrictions have helped to prevent the spread of the virus beyond Victoria, they have wreaked havoc on the economy with official data on Wednesday showing Australia had entered its first recession in three decades.
Myanmar imposes restrictions in capital
Myanmar has imposed mandatory quarantine and coronavirus tests for visitors to its capital city after the country reported dozens more infections on Wednesday and leader Aung San Suu Kyi warned of a “disaster for the country”.
Anyone entering the capital, Naypyidaw, where the government is based, will be quarantined, tested, and allowed entry only if their result is negative, according to a government order published on Facebook.
People coming from the country’s worst-hit areas will be quarantined in a facility for at least seven days, said the order by the Naypyitaw Council, while others will be allowed to leave earlier if they test negative.
Suu Kyi said those who disobeyed instructions would face punishment under the Natural Disaster Law, which carries prison terms of up to a year.
“More strict action will be taken under the Natural Disaster Law. This is a disaster for the country,” she said in a video broadcast on Wednesday. “If the pandemic spreads widely in Yangon, it will be very difficult to provide medical treatment to the people.”
Myanmar reported its first local transmission in a month in mid-August in the restive western Rakhine state. Since then, the number of cases has roughly doubled to 1,059 infections and six deaths, according to government data.
Most cases and deaths have been in Rakhine, where government troops are fighting ethnic insurgents and authorities have imposed sweeping curbs on internet access.
Most recent infections have been in that state’s capital, Sittwe, where officials have imposed a stay-at-home order and a curfew.
Mask rule violators in Indonesia made to lie in coffins
People who refuse to wear face coverings to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the Indonesian capital Jakarta can choose to lie in a coffin for over a minute instead of doing community service or paying a fine.
Authorities in East Jakarta introduced the unusual measure to make those who refuse to wear a mask think about the deadly consequences of their actions, after daily cases surpassed 1,000 in recent days, officials said on Wednesday.
Jakarta officials have also erected fake coffins with a board showing daily coronavirus figures in locations around the city to remind people about the consequences of not wearing a mask.
Indonesia on Thursday reported 3,622 new infections – a record high in daily cases – and 134 new deaths, the highest since July 22. Southeast Asia’s biggest country now has 184,268 confirmed infections, 7,750 deaths and one of the lowest coronavirus testing rates in the world.
Thailand reports first case in 100 days
Health officials in Thailand say a prison inmate has tested positive for the coronavirus in the country’s first confirmed locally transmitted case in 100 days.
They say the inmate is a 37-year-old man who was arrested for drug use on August 26 and tested positive on Wednesday when brought to the health centre of a prison in Bangkok.
A day earlier, the prime minister had congratulated the nation for having achieved 100 days without any confirmed local cases of the coronavirus.
Thailand has sustained relatively light health damage from the pandemic, even though in January it was the first country outside China to confirm a case. But its economy has been devastated by the absence of foreign tourists, who are banned from entry, and by a drop in exports.
Additional reporting by Reuters, Bloomberg, DPA
More from South China Morning Post:
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