China, S Korea see upticks in virus cases

BEIJING (AP) — China reported over 100 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday as the country continues to battle an outbreak in Xinjiang.

The 101 new cases was China’s highest daily increase in weeks. The northwestern region of Xinjiang accounted for 89, with another eight in the northeastern province of Liaoning and one in Beijing. Another three cases were brought from outside the country by returning Chinese citizens.

Outside of Xinjiang, the virus has been largely contained in mainland China with the death toll from COVID-19 remaining at 4,634 among 84,060 cases registered since the pandemic first emerged from the central city of Wuhan late last year. Hospitals are treating 482 people for the disease, with another 274 in isolation while being monitored for showing signs of infection or for having tested positive for the virus without displaying symptoms.

Xinjiang’s outbreak centred on the region’s capital and largest city of Urumqi, where authorities have isolated some communities, restricted public transport and ordered widespread testing.

Meanwhile, South Korea reported 48 additional cases, maintaining an uptick in new infections. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday the additional figures took the country’s total to 14,251 with 300 deaths. Fourteen of the new patients were locally infected while the rest 34 came from overseas. South Korea has been reporting roughly 20-60 new cases every day since it eased its strict social distancing rules in early May.

A restaurant employee looks at empty sits at a Chinese food court in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state recorded its lowest daily tally of COVID-19 cases in nine days while the state premier expressed hope it was the start of a downward trend. Victoria reported 295 new cases and nine deaths, seven of which were in aged care homes that are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said “trends are not made in one day” but that he hoped the decline continued. The outbreak has been concentrated in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, which is halfway through a six-week lockdown.

New Zealand’s government said it will rush through new laws to allow some people to be charged for their border quarantine costs. New Zealand has not had any community transmission of the virus for three months, and everybody who enters the country is required to spend two weeks isolated at a hotel. The cost to taxpayers amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars. Under the new law, adults who leave or enter the country for short holidays or business trips will be required to pay about USD2,100 toward their quarantine costs. But there will be many exceptions to the new fees, and officials acknowledge it will affect less than 10 per cent of travellers.