Asia Today: Surfs up, coffee's ready as New Zealand reopens

BANGKOK (AP) — Surfers greeted a spectacular sunrise in Christchurch, construction workers purchased their favorite espresso coffees and some lawmakers returned to Parliament in the capital Wellington on Tuesday as aspects of New Zealand life began returning to normal.

The country had been in a strict lockdown for over a month to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but those conditions were eased a little from midnight Monday to allow some parts of the economy to restart as new infections wane.

Among those places to reopen were construction sites, and cafes and restaurants that sell takeaway coffees and food. People are still required to work from home if they can and maintain social distancing.

New Zealand on Tuesday recorded three new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its total to 1,472. There have been 19 deaths.

— HUNDREDS HIT THE BEACH: Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach has been reopened to swimmers and surfers despite the local area having Australia’s highest concentration of COVID-19 cases. People can only enter during daylight hours, cannot linger on the sand and are counted to ensure social distancing. Hundreds braved cool autumn weather to return to the water soon after the gates opened. A virus testing tent is nearby due to the high rate of infections, particularly among backpackers who often live in crowded conditions. The municipality that includes Bondi says it continues to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Australia.

— VACCINE NEEDED BEFORE OLYMPICS: The head of Japan’s medical association said it will be difficult to hold the Olympics without coronavirus vaccines. “I hope vaccines and drugs will be developed as soon as possible," Japan Medical Association President Yoshitake Yokokura told a video news conference in Tokyo. The Tokyo 2020 Games have been rescheduled to July next year. Experts have said it could take a couple of years or longer to develop vaccines that are safe and effective for clinical use.

— SOUTH KOREA SHIFTING FOCUS: South Korea reported 14 new cases and one more death, bringing its totals to 10,752 cases and 244 fatalities. Its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said four of the fresh cases were from Seoul and two from hardest-hit Daegu. With its caseload slowing, South Korea has shifted its focus to easing the economic shock. President Moon Jae-in said the pandemic has hurt major industries including airlines, marine transport and shipbuilding while calling for “all-out efforts” to protect companies and jobs.

— CHINA STATS DROP: The Chinese city of Wuhan that was the original epicenter of the pandemic again reported no new coronavirus cases or deaths Tuesday and its hospitals remained empty of virus patients for a second straight day. China's six new cases were three imported from overseas and three in Heilongjiang province bordering Russia. No new deaths were reported nationwide and just 648 current confirmed cases remained registered. China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,836 cases.

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