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Asia Today: India's virus cases jump with another daily high

NEW DELHI (AP) — India has reported a new daily record of nearly 20,000 new infections as several Indian states reimpose partial or full lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

India’s health ministry has recorded 548,318 COVID-19 total cases as of Monday, a jump of nearly 100,000 cases in a week in the world’s fourth-worst affected country after the United States, Brazil and Russia. India’s death toll has reached 16,475, while 321,723 patients have recovered from the disease.

The capital district of the northeastern state of Assam on the Bangladesh border has reimposed a full lockdown until July 12 following a spike in cases. Another border state, West Bengal, has extended its lockdown until July 31.

However, in India’s worst-affected states, Maharashtra which includes India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and Delhi, home to the federal capital of New Delhi, most of the country’s lockdown restrictions have been eased, with restaurants, shopping malls and parks reopened, and public buses and shared-ride services back on the roads.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— South Korea has reported 42 new infections of COVID-19 as infections steadily climb in the greater capital area, forcing authorities to consider stronger social restrictions. Twenty-four of the new cases were reported from the Seoul region, while at least 12 were linked to international arrivals. The recent transmissions are proving difficult to track as people increasingly venture out in public. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said the government is prepared to implement stronger social distancing measures if the epidemic continues to grow. He said the strongest measures — including banning all gatherings of more than 10 people, shutting schools, halting professional sports, and restricting operations of non-essential businesses — will be enforced if the daily increase in infections doubles more than twice in a week.

— Philippine officials say authorities in a central village may face criminal or administrative complaints for allowing a street parade and dance despite a strict coronavirus lockdown. Mayor Edgar Labella of Cebu city said officials of Basak village have been ordered to explain why the religious fiesta in honor of St. John the Baptist was held Saturday despite a prohibition against public gatherings. Performers in native wear and face masks danced during the night procession, which drew a large crowd. While the Philippines has eased quarantine restrictions in most regions, Cebu city is under a strict lockdown following a spike in infections. The Philippines has more than 35,000 virus case, including 1,244 deaths.

— Health authorities are using a saliva test while working against a coronavirus outbreak in Australia’s second-largest city. The test appears to be less accurate than the nasal swab but is a more comfortable option. Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the situation in Melbourne was “a genuine challenge now,” in part because the better situation elsewhere in Australia made it harder to tell people to stay vigilant. Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said on Monday that 75 people had tested positive in the state in the latest 24 hours. She said the saliva test was first used in a Melbourne suburban hot spot on Sunday. The saliva tests in research were only 87% as accurate as the nasal swab because saliva contained less virus than the throat, said Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, which developed the saliva test being used.

— China reported a further decline in new cases, with just 12. Seven of those were locally spread cases in Beijing, where nearly 8.3 million people have been tested in recent weeks. The number of new cases in the city was down by half from the day before, the National Health Commission reported. Beijing temporarily shut a huge wholesale food market where the virus spread widely earlier this month, reclosed schools and locked down some neighborhoods. Anyone leaving Beijing is required to have a negative virus test result procured within the previous seven days.

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