Asia Today: India adds 53,000 new cases, Melbourne steadies

NEW DELHI (AP) — India reported 53,601 new cases of coronavirus Tuesday as its total infections neared 2.3 million.

The Health Ministry also said 871 deaths were newly reported, raising total fatalities to 45,257.

India has been posting an average of around 50,000 new cases a day since mid-June.

Its total infections are third in the world, behind the United States and Brazil. The three countries account for half of the world's 20 million cases. The true numbers around the world are thought to be much higher because of factors including low testing and the possibility the virus can be spread by people who don't have symptoms.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research body, said nearly 25 million samples have been tested.

Health experts, however, say the country needs to test more people given its big population. A country of 1.4 billion people, India has been conducting a little less than 18,000 tests per million population.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— An outbreak in Australia’s second-largest city held steady Tuesday, raising hopes the strict lockdown in Melbourne was working. Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, reported 331 new cases and 19 more deaths from COVID-19, equaling the record number of deaths set a day earlier. The number of new infections was less than half the peak days in recent weeks. Meanwhile, health authorities in Sydney were investigating a growing cluster of cases centered around a private Catholic school. The state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, reported 22 new cases, including eight that are linked to the school cluster.

— Mainland China and semi-autonomous Hong Kong saw declines in their recent outbreaks Tuesday. The number of new community infections in China fell to 13, all in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. Hong Kong counted 69 new cases. The mainland also saw 31 new cases brought by Chinese travelers from abroad. China requires testing and a two-week quarantine of all new arrivals and has barred most foreigners from entering the country. The National Health Commission said 794 people are in treatment for COVID-19, while another 288 are being monitored in isolation for showing signs of the illness or testing positive for the virus without displaying symptoms.

Taiwan’s foreign minister says his government sent protective gear and other COVID-19 assistance to foreign countries surreptitiously so the recipients wouldn’t face China’s wrath. China has sought to diplomatically isolate the island it claims as its own territory, and Joseph Wu described Taiwan’s efforts to help while facing that pressure as “increasingly difficult.” Wu was meeting with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the highest-level American to visit Taiwan in four decades. China’s efforts include excluding Taiwan from global health forums, but Azar said the U.S. supports Taiwanese participation. Azar said, “Especially during a pandemic, but at all times, international organizations should not be places to play politics.”

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