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Asia Today: Officials: No more hospitalized Wuhan patients

BANGKOK (AP) — Wuhan, the city at the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak, has no more hospitalized patients after the last 12 were discharged Sunday, the Hubei province health commission said.

Hubei’s remaining patients were all in Wuhan, the provincial capital where the outbreak took the heaviest toll in China. The 3,869 people who died in the city account for more than 80% of the country’s reported deaths.

“It is a historic day,” said a report in a newspaper owned by the Wuhan government and posted on the city’s website.

Hubei has no more suspected cases in its hospitals, though 1,728 people who had close contact with an infected person remain under medical observation, the province's health commission reported Monday.

Patients remain hospitalized elsewhere in China, including 67 in Shanghai and three in Beijing. Many cities have seen an influx of cases from overseas, prompting the government to curtail international flights and entry sharply.

With the easing of the crisis, a central government team that had overseen the response in Hubei since late January departed Monday, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— THAILAND CASES DWINDLE: Thai health authorities on Monday reported the country’s lowest number of new cases of the coronavirus in more than six weeks, as the government considers easing some restrictions imposed to control the spread of the virus. Nine new confirmed cases were reported, the smallest single-day increase since March 14. Thailand has confirmed 2,931 cases, including 52 deaths. Officials said a proposal will be submitted to the Cabinet on Tuesday for easing restrictions according to suggestions from the state planning agency.

— CHINA WARNS AGAINST PROBE: China is fighting back against calls for an investigation into its role in the pandemic. China’s ambassador reportedly warned the Australian government that its pursuit of a coronavirus inquiry could set off a boycott by Chinese consumers. China also cited faults with the U.S. response to the outbreak and called for Washington itself to admit error. “Indeed, lately in the U.S. many people are questioning whether the U.S. government responded in a timely and effective manner and there are concerns,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing on Monday.

— NEW ZEALAND EASING LOCKDOWN: New Zealand reported five new coronavirus cases as the nation gets ready to ease its strict lockdown at midnight Monday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there hasn’t been widespread community transmission of the virus and the country has so far managed to avoid the worst scenarios for an outbreak. She said it would continue to hunt down the last few cases. Starting at midnight, certain businesses like construction can reopen, but with social distancing. Ardern said the nation was opening up the economy but not people’s social lives.

— JAPAN ADDING COUNTRIES TO ENTRY BAN: Japan is adding 14 more countries, including Russia, Peru and Saudi Arabia, to its entry ban as it steps up border controls while its coronavirus outbreak grows. Japan already banned entry from more than 70 other countries, banning foreigners with records of visiting those countries in the past two weeks, while invalidating visas for the rest of the world. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the expansion will take effect Wednesday. The entry ban and the visa restrictions will last through May. Japan has 13,385 confirmed cases with 364 deaths.

— AUSTRALIANS DOWNLOAD APP: More than 1 million people in Australia have downloaded an app designed to accelerate contact tracing. The government says at least 40% of Australia's 26 million people need to use the COVIDsafe app for it to be effective. Government officials intend to enact legislation to address privacy concerns. If a user is diagnosed, the app works to identify other users who have been in close proximity for 15 minutes or more in the previous three weeks. The government hopes the app will let Australia safely reopen the economy by enabling fast containment of outbreaks. Australia has recorded 6,720 cases of the virus, including 83 deaths.

— NEARLY 800 NEW CASES IN SINGAPORE: Singapore reported 799 new infections Monday to take its total to 14,423, including 12 deaths. The health ministry said the vast majority of the new cases were again foreign workers living in cramped dormitories. Singapore has the third highest number of infections in Asia, after China and India. Despite the sharp rise in infections among foreign workers — who now account for over 80% of the cases — the city-state has said the situation is contained.

— SOUTH KOREA MAY REOPEN SCHOOLS: South Korea reported 10 new cases of the coronavirus as officials mull reopening schools. The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the national totals to 10,738 cases and 243 deaths. Using an active test-and-quarantine program, South Korea has managed to slow its outbreak without lockdowns or business bans. But schools remain shut while providing children remote learning. Prime Minster Chung Sye-kyun instructed education officials to prepare hygiene and social distancing measures so the government could announce a timeline for reopening schools no later than early May.

— BANK OF JAPAN’S MOVES: Japan’s central bank is making it easier for cash-strapped companies to get funding and expanding collateral for debt in response to the growing economic damage from the pandemic. The decisions by the Bank of Japan to ease monetary policy include expanding the purchase of commercial papers and corporate bonds and removing the ceiling amount for buying government bonds. The central bank said the economy was facing serious difficulty because of the virus outbreak.

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