Asia Today: SKorea reports 110 cases, half in Busan hospital

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has reported 110 new cases of the coronavirus, half of them linked to a hospital in Busan.

The numbers released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Thursday brought the national caseload to 24,988, including 439 deaths.

At least 54 infections were reported in a hospital for the elderly in the southern port city of Busan.

More than 40 others came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, tied to places including hospitals, churches, schools and offices.

The steady rise in infections is a cause of concern in a country that has just lowered its social distancing measures, allowing high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and spectators to return to professional sports.

Health officials are planning to test 160,000 employees at hospitals, nursing homes and welfare centers for senior citizens in Seoul and nearby areas as part of efforts to prevent outbreaks.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Australia’s prime minister says his government is giving priority to reopening air services to Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday he had discussed reopening air routes with the leaders of all three countries. He described Japan and South Korea as “two countries that have done particularly well” in dealing with the pandemic. “There are a number of countries we’re looking at to see what we can do probably next year. We’re not going to rush into this,” Morrison said. Australia will allow travelers from neighboring New Zealand to arrive without hotel quarantine from Friday. New Zealand has eradicated community transmission of COVID-19, but it will continue to insist travelers from Australia quarantine for two weeks on arrival. Australia reported only 12 new cases of community transmission on Thursday. The most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria reported six each. Morrison said Australia had one of the best health and economic responses to the pandemic of any country in the world.

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

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