More than 2,000 Malaysian high schools reopened after nearly three months, in a June 24, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Asia Today: Beijing’s outbreak appears to be waning

China reports 4,634 deaths from 83,430 cases since virus first detected

BEIJING — New virus cases declined Wednesday in China and its capital, Beijing, where a roughly two-week spike appears to be firmly on the wane.

A total of 12 cases were reported nationwide, compared to 22 the day before. Beijing had seven cases, down from 13. There were two cases in neighbouring Hebei province and three that were brought in from abroad.

No new deaths were reported and 359 people remained in treatment for COVID-19, with another 118 in monitoring and isolation for testing positive while showing no symptoms or for being suspected cases.

China has reported 4,634 deaths from 83,430 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Beijing’s ongoing outbreak has topped 250 cases, virtually all linked to the city’s biggest wholesale market, and led to lockdowns of some neighbourhoods and the closing of recently re-opened schools.

About 2.4 million people were tested in 11 days, more than 10% of the city’s population, as more than 400 health workers were brought in from other provinces to triple the city’s testing capability to 300,000 samples a day, authorities said Wednesday.

A total of 256 cases have been confirmed since June 11, including three people who are in critical condition, said Lei Haichao, director of the Beijing Health Commission.

High-risk groups in the markets involved in the outbreak as well as surrounding communities were made a testing priority, along with workers in restaurants, supermarkets, and food and parcel delivery services.

As the outbreak has eased, officials in the city’s Xicheng district have relaxed some measures, including lifting the lockdown of seven residential compounds near the Tiantao Honglian market.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— India has set more record highs in daily reported cases and COVID-19 deaths. The 15,968 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours took the national total to 456,183. The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported 465 more deaths, driving fatalities up to 14,476. The ministry said the recovery rate was continuing to improve at 56%. The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons including limited testing. New Delhi and Mumbai continue to be the hardest-hit places. New Delhi is emerging as a cause of concern for the federal government and is being criticized for poor contact tracing and a lack of adequate hospital beds. The Indian Railways said it has deployed more than 500 railroad coaches at nine locations in the Indian capital to meet bed shortages.

— Tokyo’s metropolitan government reported 55 new cases Wednesday, the largest number since early May, but officials say some were identified by precautionary tests and the jump does not immediately mean a return to business restraints. Japan earlier allowed tests only for those with symptoms or close contacts with patients. Tests for precautionary purposes, mainly for night entertainment establishments, began earlier this month as businesses started resuming in phases. Since then the number of daily reported cases has been rising somewhat. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike warned people to avoid “three Cs” — close contact, close conversation and close spaces. In Otaru city in northern Japan, nine elderly people connected to the same karaoke bar tested positive. Officials and experts say aggressive testing to isolate patients quickly is key to resuming social and economic activity. Japan’s business closure requests were entirely lifted and people have been allowed to travel around the country as of last Friday. Japan has 18,024 confirmed cases and 963 deaths as of Tuesday, according to the health ministry.

— Australia has recorded its first death from COVID-19 in a month, increasing its toll from the coronavirus to 103. Authorities in Victoria state said a man in his 80s died, lifting the state’s total to 20. The state recorded double-digit increase in cases for an eighth consecutive day, with 20 new cases confirmed on Wednesday. There have been more than 7,500 infections in Australia. Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said 241 cases in the state have been identified as community transmission, an increase of eight since Tuesday.

— More than 2,000 Malaysian high schools reopened after nearly three months. The government lifted most pandemic restrictions earlier this month but adopted a more cautious approach for students. In the first phase, 500,000 students age 17 and 18 who are preparing for major examinations were allowed to return. Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali said any school with virus cases will be immediately shut down. Preschool facilities and kindergartens are to reopen July 1. All students and staff must wear masks and undergo daily temperature checks, and desks must be placed at least a meter apart in classrooms. Malaysia has 8,590 confirmed infections with 121 deaths.

— South Korea has reported 51 new cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, a continuation of an upward trend in infections. The figures released Wednesday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the country’s total to 12,535 with 281 deaths. It said 10,930 people have recovered while 1,324 remain in treatment. South Korea has been reporting roughly 40-50 new cases a day over the past two weeks amid increased public activity and eased attitudes on social distancing. There has also been an uptick in imported cases. The KCDC says 20 of the 51 newly reported cases came from overseas while 31 patients were infected locally.

— Cambodia has established a program to give cash handouts to the country’s poorest households to alleviate financial burdens caused by the coronaviruss. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government will spend $25 million a month to provide cash to 560,000 households identified by an existing program as the poorest. The households account for 2.3 million Cambodians, about 14% of the almost 17 million population.

By The Associated Press

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