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Asia Today: S. Korea sees evidence outbreak is stabilizing

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean health officials were optimistic Friday that the country’s COVID-19 outbreak is coming under control despite a spike in infections tied to international arrivals.

Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said during a briefing Friday that the spread of the coronavirus was clearly stabilizing in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area and other major cities, where transmissions had spiked since late May.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still reported 60 newly confirmed cases, including 39 linked to people arriving from abroad.

Yoon said imported cases were less threatening than local transmissions because the country is enforcing two-week quarantines on all people arriving from abroad and having them tested within three days.

The government plans to airlift more South Korean workers next week from Iraq where an outbreak has been growing. Health authorities have confirmed 34 cases among some 100 construction workers who returned from a chartered flight earlier this week.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state on Friday recorded a record 428 new COVID-19 cases in a day, as authorities move to increase testing in regional areas in case the coronavirus spreads from the nation’s second-largest city, Melbourne. Most of new cases and three deaths reported on Friday are in Melbourne. The city and part of its surrounds have been locked down since last week and authorities hope that the additional restrictions will soon result in the infection count plateauing. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said only five of the new cases were in regional parts of the state which are not in lockdown. Andrews said the government was increasing the number of testing sites outside Melbourne. There are currently 50 testing sites in regional Victoria.

— China reported a domestic transmission of the coronavirus in the far northwestern region of Xinjiang, which has seen little impact from the pandemic. Nine other new virus cases announced Friday were imported. A regional Communist Party newspaper said party officials had called for the strictest measures to be used to control any outbreak. Measures ordered in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, included isolation of all who had direct contact with those infected and electronic surveillance to uncover anyone else who might have contracted the virus. Xinjiang is the homeland of the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority and has long been blanketed with an extreme level of security. China defends the checkpoints, electronic surveillance and other steps as a crackdown on terrorism, though people who live there and their families have described oppressive state control of religious identity and family life. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 83,622 cases of COVID-19. Over 350 people remain in treatment or isolation.

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