Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance.
Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency.
“We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters.
Australia recorded its deadliest day with at least 13 deaths and more than 700 new infections, mostly in the second-most populous state of Victoria, where the government ordered all residents to wear masks outside.
The nation has confirmed a total of 16,303 cases since the pandemic began, with 189 fatalities, more than half in Victoria state and its capital Melbourne, which is under a lockdown.
Victoria’s new infections have seeded outbreaks in other areas, including Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, which reported 18 new cases yesterday.
Authorities are weighing new measures to stop the spread, but further restrictions on movement would deal a blow to the economy, already in its first recession for 30 years.
However, failure to control the outbreaks would do more economic harm in the long run, Morrison said.
Vietnam, which had been free of domestic COVID-19 cases for months, has also had a harsh reminder of the dangers, with a new surge spreading to six cities and provinces in six days, linked to an outbreak in the central city of Danang.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Health yesterday reported nine new locally transmitted infections linked to Danang, taking total cases to 42 since the coronavirus resurfaced in the nation at the weekend.
Cases have also appeared in the capital, Hanoi, the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City and in the central Tay Nguyen region.
Thanks to a centralized quarantine program and aggressive contact-tracing, Vietnam has registered a total of only 459 cases, with no deaths, but more than 81,000 people are in quarantine.
“We have to act now and act fast,” Hanoi People’s Committee President Nguyen Duc Chung said in a statement.
The authorities in Hanoi said they would test 21,000 people who recently returned from Danang.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that the new surge was different to a wave the nation fought in March, and every province and city was at risk, state broadcaster Vietnam Television reported.
India yesterday reported more than 52,000 new cases, its highest in a single day, taking its tally to 1,581,963.
India has the third-highest number of infections globally, and while major cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai have seen numbers of infections ease, caseloads are increasing sharply in rural areas.
Beijing yesterday reported 105 new cases, up from 101 the previous day, with 96 of the infections in Xinjiang, five in Liaoning Province, one in the capital and three imported cases.
China has reported 87,213 confirmed cases, with 4,658 deaths.
Isolated North Korea was on alert after a defector suspected of having COVID-19 sneaked back in from South Korea.
The nation, that says it has had no domestic cases, imposed strict quarantine and screening in the city of Kaesong, just north of the border with South Korea, where the suspected infection was reported in a 24-year-old man who defected to South Korea in 2017 and slipped back in to the nation this month.
Pyongyang has not confirmed that the man tested positive for COVID-19, but said that he was showing symptoms.
North Korean official Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned against complacency.
“A moment of inattention could cause a fatal crisis,” it said.
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