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Asia Today: India Reports over 8,000 New Virus Cases 

Hospital staff carry the body of a person who died of COVID-19 to a morgue in Mumbai, India, May 29, 2020.
Hospital staff carry the body of a person who died of COVID-19 to a morgue in Mumbai, India, May 29, 2020.

India reported more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day, another record high that topped the deadliest week in the country.

Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities, including 193 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday.

Overall, more than 60% of the virus fatalities have been reported from only two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the capital New Delhi.

Public health experts have criticized the Modi government’s handling of the outbreak. A joint statement by the Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists, which was sent to Modi’s office on May 25, said it was “unrealistic” to eliminate the virus at a time when “community transmission is already well-established.”

India has denied of any community transmission even though new cases have continued to mount significantly.

The health experts said that the infections were rising exponentially despite the “draconian lockdown,” which began March 25.

The restrictions have slowly been relaxed, with the government announcing Saturday a phased “Unlock 1” plan from June onwards that allows more economic activities. The restrictions in so-called containment zones — areas that have been isolated due to the outbreaks — will remain through June 30.

Modi, who addressed the nation through his monthly radio program on Sunday, said India was faring better than other countries.

India has a fatality rate of 2.8%.

There are concerns that the virus may be spreading through India’s villages as millions of jobless migrant workers return home from cities during the lockdown. Experts warn that the pandemic is yet to peak in India.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

  • German engineer tests positive in China: A German engineer who flew to China on a special charter flight Saturday has tested positive for the coronavirus. The Tianjin city government said in a social media post that the 34-year-old man from Blaustein, Germany, had a body temperature of 36.3 Celsius (97.3 Fahrenheit) and no COVID-19 symptoms. It did not give his name. He has been transferred to a hospital where he will be kept for medical observation. About 200 people arrived on the chartered Lufthansa A340 from Frankfurt. A second flight is scheduled to depart on Wednesday for Shanghai. China has banned most foreigners from entering the country to try to prevent the introduction of new infections, but agreed to allow the two German flights to bring back business people as it tries to revive economic growth after the coronavirus shutdowns.
  • 27 new cases in South Korea: South Korea on Sunday reported 27 new cases of the coronavirus, including 21 from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials are scrambling to stem transmissions linked to clubgoers and warehouse workers. The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on brought national totals to 11,468 cases and 270 deaths. Twelve of the new cases were international arrivals. South Korea was reporting about 500 new cases each day in early March but seemed to stabilize the outbreak with aggressive tracking and tracing, which allowed authorities to ease social distancing guidelines. A rise in infections in the greater capital area has caused alarm as millions of children have begun returning to school. KCDC said more than 100 infections were linked to workers or visitors at a warehouse of local e-commerce giant Coupang, which has seen orders spike during the epidemic.
  • China reports two new cases: China reported two new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total to 83,001. Both cases were imported ones in Shandong province south of Beijing, bringing the number of cases from abroad to 1,740. China has cut international flights drastically to try to keep new cases out, though it allowed a chartered Lufthansa A340 with employees of Volkswagen and other German companies operating in China to arrive Saturday from Frankfurt. It was the first of two such flights from Germany aimed at restarting the economy. No new domestic cases have been reported for a week, since an outbreak that infected 42 people was tamped down in Jilin province in the northeast. The country’s official death toll stands at 4,634.
  • Restrictions easing in Australia: COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most of Australia, but authorities say they’ll be watching carefully to ensure the country’s success in containing the pandemic remains on track. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said the lifting of restrictions is a balancing act between socioeconomic benefits and the public health risk. “We’re taking a deliberately safe and cautious approach,” Coatsworth said. “Most importantly we’re taking the time to gather the data over the coming weeks to determine whether it’s safe to move to the next round of lifting restrictions.” Coronavirus cases remain low in Australia by international standards, with 7,180 infections and 103 deaths. The more flexible restrictions, which differ across the states, will mean more movement in public places, including pubs, cafes, and restaurants. But authorities have renewed their call for safe hygiene and social distancing measures to remain.