Asia steps up virus efforts as second wave of infections strikes
Muslim people gather outside the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid mosque during a nationwide one day Janata (civil) curfew imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in New Delhi on March 22, 2020. Millions of people in India were in lockdown on March 22 as the government tests the country's ability to fight the pandemic that has killed nearly 13,000 worldwide.
AFP/Xavier Galiana

Asia steps up virus efforts as second wave of infections strikes

Allison Jackson (Agence France-Presse) - March 23, 2020 - 7:29am

HONG KONG, China — From Australia's Bondi Beach to the streets of New Delhi, authorities across Asia have ramped up efforts to stem the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus amid fears of a second wave of infections in places where outbreaks had appeared under control.

Tighter travel restrictions were imposed in several countries as the number of cases in the region soared past 95,000 — a third of the world's infections, an AFP tally shows.

Outside China — where the virus was first detected in December and infected more than 80,000 people — South Korea is the hardest-hit country in Asia with more than 8,500 cases.

While the number of infections in China has been falling for weeks, other countries are seeing the toll gather pace from spread of the highly contagious virus.

Cases rose by roughly a third in Thailand overnight to nearly 600, fueling scepticism about claims in neighbouring Myanmar and Laos of zero infections.

Three doctors treating virus patients in Indonesia died, taking the country's death toll to 48 with 514 confirmed infections.

Most cases are in Jakarta, where businesses have been ordered closed for two weeks.

After shutting its borders to foreigners and non-residents, Australia told citizens to also cancel domestic travel plans, with the number of cases topping 1,300.

Bondi Beach and several other popular swimming spots were closed after crowds of sunbathers defied a ban on large outdoor gatherings.

Pubs, casinos, cinemas and places of worship will be shuttered for up to six months starting Monday.

India curfew

Pakistan suspended international flights in a bid to prevent the virus spreading.

Officials in Sindh — the country's second-most populous province — ordered a  lockdown effective midnight.

Pakistan has reported 5,650 suspected cases, 646 confirmed infections, and three deaths from the virus.

In nearby Bangladesh, however, only 27 cases have been reported, with two deaths.

Millions of people in India were in lockdown Sunday as the government tested the country's ability to fight the pandemic.

Officials said every private sector worker in New Delhi must work from home this week unless they are providing an essential service. Most public transport will also be halted.

Billionaire Anand Mahindra, whose vast Mahindra Group business empire includes cars and real estate, said his manufacturing facilities would try to repurpose to make ventilators.

Testing has expanded in the country of 1.3 billion people amid concerns that the 360 reported cases, including seven deaths, vastly understates the true scale of the crisis.

People took to their balconies in major cities after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to thank medical workers and emergency personnel by clapping or banging pots and pans for five minutes at 5:00 pm Sunday.

The World Health Organization has called for "aggressive" action in Southeast Asia, fearing that a major outbreak could cripple the region's often decrepit health care systems.

Second wave

Authorities are now dealing with a second wave of infections in places where outbreaks appeared to have been brought under control as people return from abroad.

Singapore is banning all short-term visitors to the densely populated city-state after a surge of imported cases took its total to 445 — including its first two deaths on Saturday.

In Hong Kong, where the worst had appeared to be over, the number of cases nearly doubled in the past week as more people fly back to the financial hub.

Infections in Malaysia hit 1,306 — more than half linked to an international Islamic gathering held last month, with attendees later returning to Singapore and Indonesia with the virus.

In Sri Lanka, where 82 cases were reported, guards fired on inmates in a northern prison when they tried to break out, angry over a ban on family visits to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Two convicts were killed and six others wounded.

Authorities also put restrictions on the sale of two malaria treatments amid fears of a run on the drugs after US President Donald Trump said that they might be effective to prevent a COVID-19 virus infection — though scientists agree that only more trials would determine if chloroquine really works and is safe.

Papua New Guinea, which has one confirmed infection, declared a 30-day state of emergency and halted domestic flights and public transport for two weeks.

Guam, which has 15 cases, confirmed a 68-year-old woman had died of COVID-19 — the first virus-related death in the Pacific.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 30, 2021 - 5:48pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

July 30, 2021 - 5:48pm

Hundreds of thousands of people in China are in coronavirus lockdown Friday as the country battles its worst outbreak in months, while the United States intensifies vaccination efforts in the face of a Delta variant-fuelled surge.

The World Health Organization has warned that the highly transmissible strain, first detected in India, could unleash more Covid-19 outbreaks in a high-risk area from Morocco to Pakistan where vaccination rates are low.

In China, a cluster of infections in Nanjing city linked to airport workers who cleaned a plane from Russia earlier this month had reached the capital Beijing and five provinces by Friday. — AFP

July 30, 2021 - 1:18pm

Japan's government will extend a virus state of emergency in Tokyo and impose the measure in four more regions on Friday, as cases surge a week into the pandemic-postponed Olympics.

The Japanese capital reported a record number of new infections on Thursday as daily cases nationwide topped 10,000 for the first time.

On Friday, Tokyo 2020 organizers reported 27 new cases related to the event -- the highest daily figure yet -- although they insist there is nothing to suggest a link to rising infections in Japan. — AFP

July 30, 2021 - 9:51am

Scientific studies with poor methodology and inaccurate findings are exacerbating a COVID-19 misinformation crisis that is discouraging vaccination and putting lives at risk.

The intense public interest in the pandemic and divisive debate in the United States over how to address it facilitates the spread of faulty research papers online, including by vaccine opponents. And even if a study is retracted, it is too late.

"Once the paper is published, the damage is irrevocable," said Emerson Brooking, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, which focuses on identifying and exposing disinformation.

Flawed papers "have been fuel to the fire for COVID-19 skeptics and conspiracy theorists. They are frequently the subject of viral online activity. Their findings are further filtered through salacious and misleading articles from fringe websites," Brooking told AFP. — AFP

July 30, 2021 - 8:36am

Mexico recorded more than 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus in 2020 — 35% more than originally reported by the government, the national statistics institute said Thursday.

According to preliminary figures based on administrative records, 201,163 deaths from COVID-19 were registered in Mexico last year, INEGI president Julio Santaella said on Twitter.

That compares with the health ministry's figure of 148,629, he noted.

The country of 126 million people now has a coronavirus death toll of around 240,000, according to the health ministry — the fourth highest in the world.

Testing in Mexico remains very limited, and government officials have previously acknowledged the real toll is likely higher.

While the health ministry figures are based on deaths in hospitals, the statistics agency uses a different methodology and includes fatalities elsewhere. — AFP

July 30, 2021 - 8:15am

The national statistics institute says Mexico recorded more than 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus in 2020 -- 35% more than originally reported by the government,

According to preliminary figures based on administrative records, 201,163 deaths from COVID-19 were registered in Mexico last year, INEGI president Julio Santaella says on Twitter.

That compares with the health ministry's figure of 148,629, he notes. — AFP

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