Asia Today: Seoul enforces limits on diners, shuts gyms

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has reported 299 new cases of the coronavirus as officials placed limits on dining at restaurants and closed fitness centers and after-school academies in the greater capital area to slow the spread of the virus.

The 17th consecutive day of triple-digit increases brought the national caseload to 19,699, including 323 deaths.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 209 of the new cases came from capital Seoul, nearby Gyeonggi province and Incheon, a region that had been at the center of a viral resurgence this month.

Thirty cases were also reported in the southeastern city of Daegu, the epicenter of the previous major outbreak in late February and March.

Churches have emerged as a major source of infections in the Seoul region and elsewhere, with many of them failing to properly enforce masks and allowing worshippers to sing and eat together. Clusters have also popped up from restaurants, schools, nursing homes and apartment buildings.

Health authorities have ordered churches and nightspots to close and shifted more schools back to remote learning nationwide as infections spiked.

For eight days starting Sunday, restaurants in the Seoul area are allowed to provide only deliveries and takeouts after 9 p.m. Franchised coffee shops like Starbucks will sell only takeout drinks and food.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— The Australian state of Victoria has recorded 114 new COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths. The fatalities bring the death toll from the virus in Victoria to 524 and the Australian total to 611. It follows 94 new cases on Saturday, which was the first day since July 5 that cases had dropped to double digits. Melbourne residents will be subjected to two more weeks of restricted movement, including a nightly curfew. Restrictions across Australia's second largest city are due to expire on Sept. 13 but will be reduced gradually rather than removed completely. Health officials have indicated that recommendations for face masks could remain in place for several more months.

— The Australian government says it will provide 2 million Australian dollars ($1.48 million) worth of personal protective equipment to the Indonesian military to assist in that country’s fight against COVID-19. The Royal Australian Air Force will deliver surgical gloves, gowns, masks and thermometers as part of existing defense cooperation between the neighbors. Current figures from Indonesia’s Health Ministry show 169,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 7,300 deaths.


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