People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus ride bicycle during the morning rush hour in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. Even as China has largely controlled the outbreak, the coronavirus is still surging across the globe with ever rising death toll. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Asia Today: China to test 9 million after new outbreak

October 12, 2020 - 5:58 am

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese health authorities will test all 9 million people in the eastern city of Qingdao for the coronavirus this week after nine cases linked to a hospital were found, the government announced Monday.

The announcement broke a two-month streak with no virus transmissions reported within China, though China has a practice of not reporting asymptomatic cases. The ruling Communist Party has lifted most curbs on travel and business but still monitors travelers and visitors to public buildings for signs of infection.

Authorities were investigating the source of the infections in eight patients at Qingdao’s Municipal Chest Hospital and one family member, the National Health Commission said.

“The whole city will be tested within five days,” it said on its social media account.

China, where the pandemic emerged in December, has reported 4,634 deaths and 85,578 cases, plus nine suspected cases that have yet to be confirmed.

The last reported virus transmissions within China were four patients found on Aug. 15 in the northwestern city of Urumqi in the Xinjiang region. All the cases reported since then were in travelers from outside the mainland.

The ruling party lifted measures in April that cut off most access to cities with a total of some 60 million people including Wuhan in central China.

Qingdao is a busy port with the headquarters of companies including Haier, a major appliance maker, and the Tsingtao brewery. The government gave no indication whether the latest cases had contacts with travel or trade.

Travelers arriving from abroad in China still are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India has reported 66,732 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving the country’s overall tally to 7.1 million. The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 816 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 109,150. India is seeing fewer new daily cases of the virus since mid-September when daily infections touched a record high of 97,894 cases. It’s averaging more than 70,000 cases daily so far this month. Health experts have warned that congregations during major festivals later this month and in November have the potential to spread the virus. They also caution that coming winter months are expected to aggravate respiratory ailments.

— Malaysia will restrict movements in its biggest city, Kuala Lumpur, neighboring Selangor state and the administrative capital of Putrajaya starting Wednesday to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says all schools in these areas will be shut and all religious, sports and social activities will be halted for two weeks. He says economic activities can continue but with strict health measures. The move comes just over four months after Malaysia lifted a three-month nationwide lockdown to control the pandemic. It has experienced a new wave of cases following increased travel for an election last month in eastern Sabah state, a hotspot on Borneo island. Several politicians, including a Cabinet minister, tested positive for the virus after returning from Sabah. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had to isolate himself for two weeks after coming into contact with the minister. The government earlier announced that Sabah will be placed under a restricted movement order from Tuesday. Ismail said inter-district travel is banned under the partial lockdown, except with approval. Other restrictions include a limit of two people leaving each household to purchase groceries. Malaysia has reported more than 16,000 cases with 157 deaths.

— Authorities in Indonesia’s capital have moved to ease strict social restrictions despite a steady increase in cases nationwide. Jakarta imposed large-scale social restrictions from April to June, then eased them gradually. The city brought back strict restrictions last month as the virus spread. Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan said his administration decided to ease the restrictions from Monday because the increase in infections has stabilized. The move came days after President Joko Widodo urged local administrations to refrain from imposing lockdown measures that could cause crippling economic damage in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

— Sri Lankan officials say they have suspended the repatriation of citizens stranded overseas by the coronavirus because the country’s quarantine facilities are full. Army Commander Shavendra Silva, who heads the task force to control the virus, says a steep rise in COVID-19 patients in the past week has filled the quarantine facilities. Sri Lanka earlier announced it had successfully contained the virus, with no local infections reported for two months. But a cluster originating in a garment factory earlier this month has resulted in 1,307 new cases in just one week. The country has reported a total of 4,791 cases, including 13 deaths.

— South Korea has confirmed 97 new cases of the coronavirus, a modest uptick from the daily levels reported last week. The increase comes as officials ease social distancing restrictions after concluding that transmissions have slowed following a resurgence in mid-August. The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Monday brought the number of infections since the pandemic began to 24,703, including 433 deaths. South Korea relaxed its social distancing guidelines beginning Monday, allowing high-risk businesses like nightclubs and karaoke bars to open as long as they employ preventive measures. Spectators will also be allowed at professional sports events, although teams will initially be allowed to only sell 30% of the seats in stadiums.

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