Asia Today: S. Korea sees biggest jump in cases since August
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has recorded its largest daily increase in coronavirus infections in nearly three months as it gets set to tighten social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 313 new cases on Wednesday, raising the country’s total to 29,311, including 496 deaths.
It’s the first time the country's daily caseload exceeded 300 since late August.
South Korea is struggling to contain a spike in new infections since it eased its stringent social distancing rules last month. The new cases are tied to hospitals, nursing homes, churches, schools, offices and family gatherings.
Local health authorities said Tuesday that they would tighten distancing restrictions in the densely populated Seoul area and some parts of eastern Gangwon province. Those areas are at the center of the recent spikes.
Under the new rules, which come into effect Thursday for two weeks in those areas, gatherings of more than 100 people during rallies, festivals and concerts will be prohibited. They will also require people to sit at least one seat apart from each other in theaters, concert halls and libraries while limiting audiences at sporting events to 30% of the stadium’s capacity.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— Authorities in Tokyo have announced nearly 500 new cases of the coronavirus, the biggest daily increase in the Japanese capital since the pandemic began, amid a nationwide spike in infections and as the country discusses with Olympic officials how to safely host next summer’s games. The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 493 new cases on Wednesday, surpassing the city’s previous high of 472 recorded on Aug. 1, during the peak of Japan’s earlier wave of infections. The record number of new cases came as International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach ended his visit to Japan to discuss with Japanese Olympic officials how to safely host the games, which were postponed until next July due to the pandemic. Japan has seen a steady climb in new cases nationwide in recent weeks, and experts have urged officials to step up preventive measures. Japan has confirmed 120,815 cases overall, including 1,913 deaths, according to the health ministry.
— The Australian state that includes the city of Adelaide will go into a six-day lockdown starting at midnight Wednesday, with schools, universities, bars and cafes closed. Only one person from each household in South Australia will be allowed to leave home each day, and only for specific reasons. Officials announced the move on Wednesday after a cluster of new cases grew to 22. State Premier Steven Marshall says he believes the lockdown will act as a “circuit-breaker” and reduce the risk of the outbreak spreading further. Health authorities say they believe a worker at an Adelaide hotel where people arriving from abroad are being quarantined caught the virus and then infected other family members. The restrictions also require most factories to close, aged-care facilities to go into lockdown, and weddings and funerals to be put on hold. Outdoor exercise will be banned, and wearing masks will be mandatory.
— India’s coronavirus caseload is holding steady, but a surge amid the festival season continues to trouble the capital, where more than 6,000 new cases were confirmed. India reported a total of 38,617 new infections on Wednesday. The country's daily caseload has been less than 50,000 for the past 11 days. But Delhi reported 6,396 new cases. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the next two weeks in the post-Diwali festival season will be important in determining which way the virus will go. Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, said he has sought the federal government’s permission to shut down for a few days some markets that turned into hotspots during the festival season. India has confirmed more than 8.9 million cases overall, second in the world behind the U.S. It has recorded 130,993 deaths from the coronavirus.