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Asia Today: India's cases jump, transmission rate increases

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — India reported nearly 25,000 new coronavirus infections Thursday and its transmission rate is increasing for the first time since March.

The new cases bring the total in the world’s third worst-affected country to 767,296. India’s health ministry said the COVID-19 death toll had risen to 21,129.

Research by the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai shows that India’s virus reproduction rate ticked up in the first week of July to 1.19 after steadily falling from peak transmission of 1.83 in March.

India’s infection numbers have skyrocketed since lockdown restrictions were eased. At the same time, testing has ramped up to more than 200,000 samples a day, compared to just a few hundred in March.

Health experts say the true extent of the virus’s spread in India is unknown and more testing must be done, given its population of nearly 1.4 billion people.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— The Australian state worst affected by the virus recorded 165 new cases in 24 hours, as an outbreak at a Melbourne high school became the state’s largest cluster. Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said six of the new cases are linked to an outbreak at Al-Taqwa College, a cluster now totaling 113 people. The first case at the school was identified on June 27, with more than 2,000 students and hundreds of staff sent into quarantine since then. Also, Queensland state closed its doors to people fleeing a six-week lockdown in Melbourne. Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said that starting Friday anyone who has been in Victoria in the previous two weeks would be banned except for Queensland residents coming home and few other exceptions. He cited the need to reserve hotel rooms for people under quarantine.

Indonesia’s resort island of Bali reopened after a three-month virus lockdown Thursday, allowing local people and stranded foreign tourists to resume public activities before foreign arrivals resume in September. Beaches and streets on the island emptied in early April except for special patrols to ensure virus-containment protocols were observed. Authorities restricted public activities, closed the airport and shuttered shops, restaurants and many other places. The governor said the island will gradually reopen shuttered places to locals and stranded foreigners. Indonesians from other parts of the country will be allowed to visit starting July 31 and new foreign arrivals on Sept. 11.

— South Korea has reported 50 new cases of the coronavirus as new clusters emerge across the country. Nineteen new cases announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were from the Seoul metropolitan area, while 15 were from the southern city of Gwangju. Twenty-two of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as COVID-19 continues to spread globally.

— China on Thursday reported nine cases brought from outside the country and none domestically amid growing signs the virus has been essentially contained in the nation where it emerged late last year. China saw its last localized outbreak in the capital Beijing last month. The near elimination of local virus transmission has allowed the reopening of most businesses and resumption of some social activities. Sports, tourism and cultural activities are slowly starting to return, although masks are obligatory and proof of health is required at many venues.

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