Four new cases in South Korea, China show work on containment

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) — China and South Korea, which had early, intense outbreaks of the coronavirus, together reported only four new infections yesterday and were slowly resuming public events after months of containment efforts.

Meanwhile, the United States (US) was taking halting steps to lift some restrictions even as thousands of new cases continue to be reported each day.

In Washington, the Supreme Court heard arguments by telephone and allowed the world to listen in live for the first time ever. And the Senate convened for the first time since March, though prospects for quick action on a new aid package are uncertain.

South Korea’s three new cases represented the lowest daily jump in nearly three months.

More than 10,000 people have been infected in the nation’s outbreak, and more than 250 have died.

A couple wearing face masks walks in the rain at the Gyeongbok Palace, the main royal palace during the Joseon Dynasty, in Seoul. PHOTO: AP

As cases slow, South Korea will start reopening schools in phases starting with high school seniors next week, and its professional baseball league began its new season yesterday.

Pictures were placed in the stands depicting absent fans, and the stadium was quiet enough to hear cheers and shouts from the dugout.

In China, it has been three weeks since any new deaths have been reported in the country where the pandemic began in December. Just one new case of infection was confirmed, and fewer than 400 patients are still being treated for COVID-19, health officials said. Strict travel restrictions, testing, quarantining and case tracing policies appear to have stemmed the virus as warm weather arrives in much of the country.

Other places in the Asia-Pacific region have also had success in suppressing outbreaks, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, which has had zero new cases for two days. But some countries like India have escalating outbreaks, and experts say the country with its 1.3 billion population has yet to see its peak.

In the US, a shuttered meat processing plant in South Dakota took its first steps toward reopening after more than 800 employees were infected with the virus. California Governor Gavin Newsom, one of the first governors to impose a statewide stay-home order, announced that some businesses can reopen as early as Friday, with restrictions.