Asia Today: S. Korea's cases jump again, lower in Victoria
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 166 newly confirmed case of the coronavirus, it’s highest daily jump in five months, as health authorities fear transmissions are getting out of control in the greater capital area that’s home to half of the country’s 51 million people.
The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Saturday brought the national caseload to 15,039, including 305 deaths.
The KCDC said 155 of the new infections were local, mostly from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area where authorities scurried to shut down thousands of churches, which have emerged as a major source of COVID-19 cases.
Many of them had failed to properly enforce preventive measures, allowing worshippers to take off their masks, sing in choirs or eat together in diners.
Other clusters have been tied to nursing homes, schools, restaurants, outdoor markets and door-to-door salespeople.
Government officials have expressed concern that transmissions could worsen due to demonstrations planned by anti-government protesters and labor unionists in Seoul on Saturday, the 75th anniversary of the country’s liberation from Japanese rule at the end of World War II.
The spike could result in stronger social distancing measures at major cities, which they have so far been reluctant to take because of economic concerns. They could include a ban on public gatherings, shutdowns of entertainment venues, and removing fans from baseball and other professional sports, which began to partially let in spectators only in late July.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— The Australian state of Victoria continues to flatten the curve in its wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the hard-hit area. It reported four more deaths and 303 new cases in the past 24 hours. It’s the second-lowest daily figure in Victoria this month after 278 cases on Thursday. Victoria’s daily numbers are gradually decreasing, with the seven-day average down to 344 from 521 a week ago. But authorities warn there is more progress needed before lockdown restrictions in the city of Melbourne can be eased. Melbourne residents and those in a nearby shire remain subject to strict nighttime curfews, time limits on outdoor exercise, distance allowed from home, mandatory public mask wearing and shutdowns of non-essential industries. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says, "We could not conceive of opening up with 200 cases a day. We couldn’t do it with 100 cases a day. We have to head for the lowest possible number.” The four deaths announced Saturday take the state’s toll to 293 and the Australian COVID-19 death total to 379.
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