With COVID-19 cases increasing, Asia-Pacific countries boost containment efforts

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-11 22:05:00|Editor: xuxin
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HONG KONG, March 11 (Xinhua) -- As confirmed COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the Asia-Pacific region, Asia-Pacific countries have been strengthening their efforts in the fight against the epidemic.

South Korea Wednesday confirmed 242 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 7,755.

Six more deaths were reported, lifting the death toll to 61. The total fatality rate stood at 0.77 percent.

Forty-one more patients were discharged from quarantine after making full recovery, raising the combined number to 288.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) decided to update the data once a day at 10:00 a.m. local time beginning Tuesday, after having announced it twice a day.

The virus infection soared for the past three weeks, with 7,724 new cases reported from Feb. 19 to March 10. The country has raised its four-tier virus alert to the highest "red" level.

The total number of infections in Daegu, about 300 km southeast of Seoul, and its surrounding North Gyeongsang province increased to 5,794 and 1,135 respectively. It accounted for about 90 percent of the total.

The numbers in Seoul and its adjacent Gyeonggi province came to 193 and 175 each.

Daegu became the epicenter of the viral spread in the country as the biggest cluster of infections was found in the metropolis with a 2.5 million population. Daegu has been designated by the government as a "special care zone."

Fifty-two new cases were reported in Seoul as a small cluster infection was found at a call center in southern Seoul.

The Seoul city government was considering an administrative order to temporarily ban the businesses, done in the confined spaces, such as Internet cafes and karaoke rooms as well as call centers.

Japan's health ministry and local governments said Wednesday that the number of COVID-19 infections increased by 18 to stand at a total of 585 in Japan as of 6:00 p.m. local time.

The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stands at 31, according to the health ministry, with the figure including those from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama, close to Tokyo.

Of the 585 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan, not including those related to the Diamond Princess, the majority are in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, which has confirmed 118 cases and previously declared a state of emergency over the situation.

Aichi Prefecture, meanwhile, has 99 confirmed cases, Osaka 73, Tokyo 67, Kanagawa 44 and Hyogo Prefecture has confirmed 31 COVID-19 infections, according to the latest statistics from health ministry and local authorities.

The health ministry said there are currently 31 patients considered severely ill and are on ventilators to receive respiratory assistance or have been admitted to intensive care units for medical treatment.

The ministry also said that a total of 427 people have been discharged from hospitals after their symptoms improved.

Japan's lower house of parliament on Wednesday passed a special bill to enable better provisions to be made to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and empowering Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency if necessary as the number of pneumonia-causing infections continue to rise.

The bill was approved Wednesday by a majority vote from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its Komeito coalition ally, as well as opposition parties including the Constitutional Democratic Party, Democratic Party for the People and the Japan Innovation Party, among others.

The passage of the bill through the lower house on Wednesday paves the way for the bill to be put to the vote in the upper house of Japan's bicameral parliament on Thursday, where it is expected to be passed as the LDP-led coalition holds a majority in both chambers.

The bill, which will be effective for a period of up to two years, is a revision of an existing law on novel influenza and has been made applicable to COVID-19.

Under the new amended law, the government would have extended powers once a state of emergency has been declared by Abe for particular parts of the country.

Japan on Wednesday marked the ninth anniversary of a powerful earthquake-triggered tsunami, which obliterated swathes of the nation's northeastern seaboard, leaving more than 15,000 people dead and triggering the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

But due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, a ceremony supported by the government was cancelled for the first time since 2012.

Thailand's Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday reported six new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in the country to 59, with 34 cases having fully recovered, 24 still in hospital and one death.

Of the six new cases, five were of Thai nationals and the other a Singaporean.

Among the five Thai nationals, two worked at Suvarnabhumi international airport, including an immigration officer.

One of the five Thai men has recovered and returned home after treatment.

Sopon Iamsirithaworn, director of Bureau of General Communicable Diseases, maintained that Thailand is still in Stage 2 of the virus outbreak.

Thailand's Immigration Bureau on Wednesday announced it has revoked the grant of visa on arrival for 18 countries and regions. The bureau has also revoked visa exemption grants for three countries and regions.

"We have revoked the granting of the visas to quickly contain the spread of COVID-19," said Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda.

Vietnam's Ministry of Health on Wednesday confirmed three new COVID-19 infections in its central Binh Thuan province, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 38.

The latest cases were reportedly in close contact with Vietnam's 34th case, a 51-year-old Vietnamese female returning home on March 2 from the United States with transit in Qatar. They are a 64-year-old helper, a 37-year-old staff member and the 28-year-old daughter-in-law of the 34th case.

The new cases brought the total infections in Binh Thuan to four, which are all being treated at the General Hospital of Binh Thuan province.

So far Vietnam has recorded 38 infected cases, with 16 discharged from hospital. It saw 22 new infections, among whom over 10 are foreign tourists, within the recent six days since Friday.

The country has 113 suspected cases with nearly 25,000 being put under quarantine as of Wednesday, according to its health ministry.

Vietnam has announced its temporary suspense of visa waiver program for some countries in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday that 16 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Philippines, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 49.

The country's Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday that some of the hospitals in Metro Manila are experiencing overcrowding due to an increasing number of people who might have contracted the virus.

The number of Philippine COVID-19 cases has grown rapidly in the last few days, including one death. The country is seeing more cases since it detected local transmission on Saturday.

The Philippines plans to buy 40,000 laboratory test kits for the new coronavirus disease. Already, the DOH said it has requested an additional budget of 139 million pesos (roughly 2.8 million U.S. dollars) to buy more test kits.

The country's Food and Drug Administration Director General Rolando Enrique Domingo said the FDA approved the COVID-19 test kits developed by local scientists.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a proclamation declaring a state of nationwide public health emergency after the number of COVID-19 cases in the country surged and detected local community transmission.

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque urged the public to practice personal preventive measures such as proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette, maintain social distancing, avoid visiting crowded public places, and avoid mass gatherings at this critical time.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia had reached 34 with one death, the Indonesian government said on Wednesday.

"Today, we have seven new cases," government spokesperson for all coronavirus-related matters Achmad Yurianto said at the State Palace in Jakarta, adding that all were imported cases.

Yurianto said earlier that one patient tested positive for the virus died Wednesday at around 2 a.m. local time. The deceased, identified as a British national, died on the holiday island of Bali.

Yurianto said the patient had diabetes, hypertension, hyperthyroidism and lung disease.

Including the deceased, Indonesia has recorded 34 cases of COVID-19 infections.

Two of the patients have left hospitals as they have been confirmed negative following their tests.

"However, they are still required to self-quarantine at their homes," Yurianto said.

Malaysia on Wednesday announced 20 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 149, said the Health Ministry.

Another case had been declared cured and discharged, making for a total of 26 who had recovered in Malaysia, Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.

Noor Hisham added that the ministry was investigating a case reported in Brunei, as the individual had been in Malaysia for a gathering between Feb. 27 and March 1 that included thousands of attendees from several countries.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Health Minister Adham Baba said Malaysia would bar entry to all arrivals from Italy, Iran and South Korea, including citizens and foreigners arriving from these countries, effected from March 13, local media reported.

Brunei reported five new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday following preliminary tests, bringing the country's total to 11 cases.

According to Brunei's Ministry of Health on Wednesday, among the five new cases, three people have attended the same religious gatherings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with the first confirmed patient.

The number of COVID-19 infection cases in India rose to 60, India's federal health ministry officials said Wednesday.

"There are now 60 positive cases of the COVID-19 in the country (including the 3 cases from Kerala discharged earlier). Ten new cases of the COVID-19 have been reported since yesterday's update. Among these, eight cases are from Kerala, one from Rajasthan and one from Delhi," a statement issued by India's federal ministry of health and family welfare said.

Of the 60 cases, 44 are Indian nationals and 16 are citizens of Italy.

Authorities across India have sounded an alert and urged people to avoid unnecessary foreign travel and mass gatherings.

The federal health ministry has launched a helpline number to provide support to people regarding queries on the disease. The health ministry is also circulating the precautionary measures recommended by the World Health Organization for the prevention of the COVID-19 in India.

Authorities in various states in the country have closed primary level schools and cinema halls until March 31 as a precautionary measure.

A 52-year-old local tour operator tested positive for the COVID-19 virus in Sri Lanka Wednesday, making him the first case detected in the island country after a Chinese national was successfully treated for the virus and released last month, the President's Office said in a statement.

Director General of Health Services, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, quoted in the statement said the tour operator had worked with an Italian tourist group.

"The patient has been sent for the quarantine process. The government has initiated gathering information regarding the patient, where he traveled in the country with the Italian group and the persons who had come into contact with him," Dr Jasinghe said.

The government on Tuesday began quarantining passengers arriving from South Korea, Italy and Iran.

Number of novel coronavirus cases has risen to seven in Afghanistan, an Afghan Public Health Ministry official said on Wednesday.

"Two more imported cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in northern Samangan and western Herat provinces," Wahid Majroh, an advisor to the ministry told local media.

The new cases have brought the total number of infections in the country to seven, the official said.

The latest cases were also imported as the patients returned from Iran a couple of days ago, and had been isolated, he added.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia has risen to 112 on Wednesday, with 12 more cases reported, according to the Department of Health.

The number of deaths remain steady at three and New South Wales, Australia's most populated state, accounted for 53 percent of the national total with 60 cases.

Australia's first drive-through coronavirus testing service was opened in South Australia (SA), where there have been six confirmed cases.

The service at the Repatriation Health Precinct in Adelaide could receive a patient every 20 minutes once fully operational.

Several Australian schools and a university have temporarily closed after COVID-19 was detected in students and staff, as cases across the country rose to well over 100.

The Southern Cross University (SCU) closed two of its campuses on Wednesday after an international staff member who had been visiting from overseas tested positive.

Meanwhile, at least two high schools were closed in the state of Victoria where health officials confirmed three new cases, taking the total to 21.

Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews warned of stricter measures to slow down the spread of the virus which he said was likely to escalate over coming months.

Organisers in the Australian state of Tasmania said on Wednesday that they would be cancelling world renowned arts festival Dark Mofo for 2020 -- citing the COVID-19 outbreak posed too much risk to the event's longevity.

The Australian government has extended its travel ban to Italy and announced a 2.4-billion-Australian-dollar (1.55-billion-U.S. dollar) medical response to COVID-19.