Saturday 26 September, 2020

Asia Today: India has record spike of 95K new virus cases

Indians wearing face masks wait for medical check-up outside a government hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, Sept.9, 2020. India's coronavirus cases are now the second-highest in the world and only behind the United States. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

Indians wearing face masks wait for medical check-up outside a government hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, Sept.9, 2020. India's coronavirus cases are now the second-highest in the world and only behind the United States. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

India reported another record spike of 95,735 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours as the virus spreads beyond its major cities.

According to the Health Ministry, the number of people known to be infected in India reached 4,465,863 on Thursday. It has the second-highest caseload in the world behind the United States, where more than 6.3 million people are known to be infected.

The Health Ministry also reported 1,172 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 75,062. Its death toll is third-highest in the world behind the US and Brazil.

The ministry said the surge in new infections is due to ramping of daily testing that exceeds 1 million now. However, experts caution that India's outbreak is entering a more dangerous phase as the virus spreads to smaller towns and villages.

The Indian capital saw a record surge of 4,618 new cases in the past 24 hours with 19 deaths. New Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Chennai are the worst-hit cities in the country.

With the economy contracting by a record 23.9 per cent in the April-June quarter, leaving millions jobless, Indian authorities have said they have little choice but to continue reopening the economy.

Meanwhile, the Serum Institute of India maintained that the temporary halt to late-stage studies of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine candidate would not impact the timeline for vaccine trials in India. The studies  in multiple countries were halted because of "potentially unexplained" illness in a British recipient.

Indian authorities said they would review the illness report and assess the information from the initial human clinical trials in India.

Serum, the world's largest maker of vaccines by volume, is mass-producing the vaccine for low and middle-income countries.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— South Korea's new coronavirus cases have come below 200 for an eight straight day, suggesting a viral resurgence is slowing amid stringent social distancing rules. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it has reported 155 additional cases over the past 24 hours, taking the national tally to 21,743 with 346 deaths.

New infections spiked in South Korea, mostly in the greater Seoul area, since early August. Authorities in the Seoul area subsequently ordered the shutdown of churches, nightspots and fitness centers and restricted dining at restaurants. Those enhanced rules expire on Sunday, and the government is to announce whether to extend them.

— A Singapore court has sentenced a Taiwanese woman to 11 weeks in jail for intentionally sneezing at a security guard who barred her from entering a Singapore shopping mall.

The court issued the sentence Thursday after Sun Szu-Yen pleaded guilty in June to performing a rash act and an unrelated harassment charge, Singapore media reported. Sun and her son were stopped at a mall entrance on April 12 for not wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, local media said.

She tried to use her scarf as a mask but when the guard refused to let her in, she sneezed in the guard's direction and reportedly told the guard to "shut up." She also took her passport out of her bag and said "I am China, I am Taiwan," local media said.

She was also charged with harassment for throwing several items, including a vacuum cleaner and a plastic chair, out of her condominium window in June last year, local media said. Prosecutors told the court that she is not mentally ill but has a mood disorder.

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