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Asia Today: SKorea records 113 new cases; 357 in Australia

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has reported 113 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, its first daily jump over 100 in nearly four months.

But the rise was predictable as health authorities had forecast a temporary spike driven by imported infections found among cargo ship crews and hundreds of South Korean construction workers airlifted out of virus-ravaged Iraq.

The figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Saturday brought the national caseload to 14,092, including 298 deaths.

The KCDC said 86 of the new cases were linked to international arrivals while the other 27 were local transmissions. It said the imported cases included 36 South Korean workers who returned from Iraq and 32 crew members of a Russia-flagged cargo ship docked in the southern port of Busan.

South Korean officials consider imported cases as less threatening than local transmissions because of mandatory tests and a two-week quarantine for all overseas arrivals.

Kwon Jun-wook, director of South Korea’s National Institute of Health, said during a briefing Friday afternoon that the newly reported cases the next morning would likely exceed 100 for the first time since April 1 and urged the public not to be overly alarmed by it.

He said 89 of the 293 South Korean workers who arrived home Friday aboard two military planes from Iraq were exhibiting symptoms.

South Korea has been dealing with a virus resurgence since easing social distancing guidelines in mid-April. Health authorities over the past week have found new clusters tied to churches, welfare centers, office buildings and a front-line army unit.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Five more Victoria residents died from COVID-19 as the Australian state recorded 357 new cases in the past 24 hours. Premier Daniel Andrews refused to rule out further restrictions but said Saturday the mandatory wearing of masks was the current strategy to stop the spread. “If they are worn by everybody, we may not need to go further,” Andrews said. “We can’t rule out going further with rule changes, but it’s a big game changer.” There are now nearly 4,000 active cases in the state and of those, 313 are health care workers. The deaths take the state toll to 61 and the national figure to 145. Victoria recorded 300 new cases on Friday, down from 403 on Thursday.

— China on Saturday reported 34 new confirmed coronavirus cases. The total reported in the 24 hours through midnight Friday includes five people who caught the virus abroad, the National Health Commission said. No additional deaths were reported, leaving China’s fatality toll at 4,634.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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