Coronavirus: late dining ban lifted in Seoul; India’s cases rise to 4.75 million

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South Korea on Sunday eased its tough social distancing policy for the next two weeks in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, with new daily novel...

South Korea on Sunday eased its tough social distancing policy for the next two weeks in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, with new daily novel coronavirus cases hovering stubbornly within triple digits.

The government has lifted a ban on on-site dining after 9pm, though still requires restaurants and cafes to restrict seating and record patrons’ names and contact details.

While leisure facilities such as gyms and internet cafes are also allowed to reopen, under so-called phase two restrictions, indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people and outdoor gatherings to 100, while spectators are banned from sporting events.

Health authorities said the easing would contribute toward a reopening of the economy, before returning to tougher guidelines for two weeks again from September 28 during the Chuseok holiday.

“After a comprehensive review of the recent situation and expert opinion, the government intends to adjust social distancing to phase two in the Seoul area for two weeks,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a televised meeting of government officials.

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Infection numbers fell steadily to the low 100s after the government imposed unprecedented social distancing curbs in late August, but surged last week as small clusters emerged.

The Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 121 new cases of novel coronavirus infection as of midnight on Saturday, bringing total infections to 22,176, with 358 deaths.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, lockdown restrictions in Australia’s state of Victoria will ease very slightly as of Monday, state officials said, as the number of new daily coronavirus cases continued to fall in the country’s hotspot.

Announcing a A$3 billion (US$2.2 billion) package in financial aid to businesses in Victoria, home to a quarter of Australia’s population, officials also said there were 41 new coronavirus infections on Sunday and seven more deaths.

The numbers confirm a steady downward trend from a peak of more than 700 cases in a single day in early August. Victoria accounts for about 75 per cent of Australia’s more than 26,600 Covid-19 cases and its capital, Melbourne, has been under strict lockdown for several weeks.

The city will remain under hard lockdown, but the amount of time people will be able to spend outside will double to two hours per day and the overnight curfew will be shortened by an hour as of Monday.

In New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, where social distancing rules are much more relaxed and retailers and restaurants are allowed to open, officials recorded nine new cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday.

Neighbour New Zealand reported two new cases: one was a returnee to New Zealand in managed isolation and the other was a health worker who worked in Auckland’s quarantine facility.

India registered single-day spike of 94,372 new confirmed coronavirus cases, driving the country’s overall tally to 4.75 million.

The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 1,114 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 78,586.

Even as infections are growing faster in India than anywhere else in the world, the number of people recovering from the virus has also risen sharply. The country’s recovery rate stands at 77.77 per cent and nearly 70,000 recoveries have been reported every day in the month of September, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry attributed India’s Covid-19 recovery pace to aggressive testing and prompt surveillance, but experts say India needs to test more due to its huge population. It’s climbed to the second worst-hit country behind the United States, and is now testing more than 1 million people every day.

India’s Parliament is expected to resume work on Monday with strict physical distancing. Parliament adjourned in March just before a nationwide lockdown was announced to contain the pandemic.

Indonesia on Sunday reported 3,636 new infections and 73 new deaths, data from Health Ministry’s website showed.

The latest report brought the total number of infections to 218,382 and deaths to 8,723, the highest number of deaths in Southeast Asia.

The country’s capital Jakarta will reimpose stricter wide-scale restrictions starting on Monday to control spread of the virus.

The Philippines recorded 3,372 new coronavirus cases and 79 more deaths.

Reuters and Associated Press




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