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Asia steps up efforts to battle wave of new coronavirus infections

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Via Financial Times

A surge in new coronavirus cases in Asia has raised fears of a possible second wave of infections, and forced authorities to take further steps to limit travel and commerce.

Hong Kong reported its largest single day increase in new cases, with 48 recorded on Friday, 35 of them imported. 

The Chinese territory is now focused on a “second wave” of infections carried by people returning from overseas. 

“The epidemic from imported cases, is more severe and harder to deal with compared to any time in the past two months, and have a much higher chance to lead to a community outbreak,” said Carrie Lam, Hong Kong chief executive. 

Ms Lam also announced the resumption of social distancing measures but fell short of mandating a total lockdown. From Monday, public recreational facilitates such as sport grounds and museums will be shut. She added that civil servants would be required to once again work-from-home, with private companies encouraged to adopt the same approach.

Singapore, another place that has had success in containing the pandemic, reported its first two fatalities this weekend, prompting authorities to introduce new measures on Sunday. Authorities banned short-term visitors from entering or transiting through the city and returning residents will have to undergo quarantine for 14 days at home of risk a fine and/or six months in jail.

Bangkok’s regional government on Saturday ordered the closure of shopping malls, non-food markets, barber shops, swimming pools and most other public venues.

The kingdom reported 89 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, the biggest daily jump yet, bringing the total to 411.

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Thailand, with an economy that relies heavily on tourism and hospitality, has been slower than most other countries to order businesses to shut in response to the pandemic.

Vietnam said it too would halt inbound international flights. 

In Indonesia, cases rose on Saturday to 450, with 38 deaths. On Friday, a state of emergency was declared in Jakarta, the country’s capital. 

India vowed to step up its testing capacity, as its recorded cases rose to 271. 

Neighbouring Pakistan suspended all international flights for two weeks, as the number of people infected climbed to over 600, with three deaths. 

Over half of those with the virus are in the southern Sindh province, home to Karachi — the country’s de facto business and financial capital.

The central Punjab province, where around 60 per cent of Pakistan’s population live, ordered all businesses to close for two days from Saturday night, with the exception of medical facilities and those selling food items.

Mainland China reported no new domestically transmitted cases of coronavirus for the third consecutive day on Friday, according to the National Health Commission.

South Korea, which has drawn international praise for its handling of the outbreak, on Saturday reported 147 new confirmed cases, fuelling concerns about new infection clusters and imported cases.

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The additional infections brought the country’s total number to 8,799, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Many of the new confirmed patients were elderly people in rest homes in the country’s south-east region, which has been at the centre of the virus outbreak.

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Eight more deaths were reported, bringing the total number of fatalities to 102, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses.

In Australia, authorities temporarily closed Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach following criticism of people who broke social distancing rules by gathering in large numbers to enjoy the sunny weather.

Reporting by John Reed in Bangkok, Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong, Stefania Palma in Singapore, Song Jung-a in Seoul, Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi, Farhan Bokhari reports in Islamabad

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