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South Korea records a spike in Covid infections with 386 new cases as Asia battles rising cases

Rising cases of Covid in Asia are causing alarm and could lead to harsh new measures, months after many of its countries were praised for their handling of the pandemic.

South Korea, which has been heralded as the model for controlling the crisis, reported 386 new daily cases on Saturday.

The resurgence could force authorities to reimpose stronger social distancing restrictions after easing them in October to spur a faltering economy.

Fans wearing face masks pile into a baseball game in South Korea despite fears over rising infection rates

An attendee stands in a sterilizer as a precaution against the virus as he arrives for a defense expo in Goyang, South Korea

An attendee stands in a sterilizer as a precaution against the virus as he arrives for a defense expo in Goyang, South Korea

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency raised the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 30,403, including 503 deaths.

More than 270 of the new cases have come from the Seoul metropolitan area, where health workers have struggled to track transmissions in schools, private tutoring academies and religious facilities.

Infections were also reported in other major cities, including Busan, Daejeon, Gwangju and Asan.

South Korea has so far managed to weather the pandemic without major lockdowns, relying instead on an aggressive test-and-quarantine campaign and mask wearing.

The country, which has often been heralded as the model for controlling the crisis, reported 386 new daily cases on Saturday

The country, which has often been heralded as the model for controlling the crisis, reported 386 new daily cases on Saturday

Officials eased distancing measures to the lowest level in October, which allowed high-risk venues such as nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and fans to return to professional sports.

But the Korean Society of Infectious Diseases said the country could be reporting more than 1,000 new infections a day in a week or two if social distancing measures are not effectively strengthened.

‘Covid-19 transmissions are occurring in large numbers simultaneously across the country, and in some regions, the pace of infections has already overwhelmed local capacities for contact tracing,’ the doctors’ group said.

Meanwhile in Japan, the government-backed GoTo campaign to encourage travel and dining out is being scaled back.

In Japan, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached a record for the third day straight on Saturday, at 2,418

In Japan, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached a record for the third day straight on Saturday, at 2,418

Japan has never had a total lockdown and has had fewer than 2,000 deaths so far related to coronavirus

Japan has never had a total lockdown and has had fewer than 2,000 deaths so far related to coronavirus

It came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached a record for the third day straight on Saturday, at 2,418. 

Russia announces record cases for fourth time in a week

Russia has reported a new daily high in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

The national coronavirus taskforce said 24,822 new cases were recorded over the past day, the fourth time in a week that a new high has been tallied.

It said a record 467 people died of Covid-19.

The surge in infections is straining Russia’s vast but underfunded healthcare system, with many infected people reportedly forced to search for sparse hospital beds.

Overall, Russia has recorded more than 2,064,000 cases and 35,778 deaths.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the decision at a government panel on coronavirus pandemic measures.

Stressing the need for ‘utmost caution’, he said the campaign’s travel discounts will no longer apply to hard-hit areas, and discounts on eating out will end temporarily. 

Japan has never had a total lockdown and has had fewer than 2,000 deaths so far related to coronavirus. 

But worries have been growing about a spike in infections over the three-day weekend for the national holiday, Labour Thanksgiving, on Monday.

India, a consistent hotspot for the virus, reported 46,232 new cases today, with the situation particularly alarming in New Delhi. 

Intensive care wards and the capital’s main crematorium are near capacity, and health officials this week found the prevalence of infections in markets much higher than expected. 

The city has added an average of 6,700 cases each day in recent weeks. 

The Health Ministry on Saturday also registered 564 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 132,726. 

India hit a grim milestone on Friday, passing nine million infections, the second highest behind the US.

Meanwhile China is starting mass testing on 3million people in a section of the northern city of Tianjin and has tested 4,015 others in a hospital in Shanghai after the discovery of a pair of cases there. 

A health worker takes a nasal swab in New Delhi as India passed a total of 9million infections

A health worker takes a nasal swab in New Delhi as India passed a total of 9million infections

The National Health Commission recorded seven new domestically transmitted cases on Saturday, including five in Tianjin and two in Shanghai. 

Tianjin reported community transmission involving four different individuals and another case on Friday. In response, local authorities sealed off the residential community where the people lived as well as a hospital and a nursery. 

On Saturday, authorities began testing all residents in the Binhai district of Tianjin, according to the local government’s social media page.   

Authorities in Shanghai sealed off a hospital after a husband and wife tested positive for the virus on Friday night. China’s total number of confirmed cases is now 86,414.

Air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong postponed 

Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism for both cities, amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong.

The air travel bubble, originally slated to begin on Sunday, will be delayed by at least two weeks, Hong Kong’s minister of commerce and economic development, Edward Yau, said at a news conference.

The arrangement is meant to allow visitors between the two cities to travel without having to serve a quarantine as long as they complete coronavirus tests before and after arriving at their destinations, and fly on designated flights.

Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, including 13 untraceable local infections.

Mr Yau said: ‘For any scheme to be successful, they must fulfil the condition of securing public health, and also making sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme. In light of the situation in Hong Kong, I think it’s the responsible way to put this back for a while, and then sort of relaunch it at a suitable juncture.’

Under the initial agreement, the air travel bubble was to be suspended if the number of untraceable local infections in either Singapore or Hong Kong exceeds five on a seven-day moving average. The current average of unlinked cases in Hong Kong is nearly four.

Although the average of five had not been reached in Hong Kong, the bubble was suspended after Mr Yau and Singapore’s transport minister, Ong Ye Kung, held discussions on Saturday.

Prior to the postponement, Singapore said travellers arriving from Hong Kong via the bubble would be required to take a coronavirus test on arrival. Originally, only people landing in Hong Kong were to be required to be tested.

Mr Ong said in a Facebook post that the postponement is a ‘sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us’.’I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint,’ Mr Ong wrote.

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