Asia Today: Australian state warns non-complying public

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Commuters wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus wait for a bus in Kolkata, India, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. India's total coronavirus positive cases near 7 million with another 73,272 infections reported in the past 24 hours. The Health Ministry on Saturday put the total positive caseload at 6.97 million, second to 7.66 million infections registered in the worst-hit United States. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

MELBOURNE – The premier of Australia’s Victoria state is stepping up his fight with members of the public who don’t comply with pandemic regulations, saying close contacts of those infected who refuse a test will have to spend 21 days in quarantine.

The state government has announced mandatory quarantine will be extended by 10 days for close contacts if they decide not to be tested on the 11th day of isolation. The change will come into effect at midnight Sunday.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said a “very, very high percentage” of people had submitted to testing but the rule was designed to provide authorities with an even more complete picture.

“This is just double-checking, triple-checking that you haven’t, in fact, still got the virus,” he said.

Victoria reported one more death and 12 new cases on Sunday, ending a three-day stretch without a fatality. The figures take Victoria’s death count from the virus to 810 and the national toll to 898.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India’s confirmed coronavirus toll crossed 7 million on Sunday with a number of new cases dipping in recent weeks, even as health experts warn of mask and distancing fatigue setting in. The Health Ministry registered another 74,383 infections in the past 24 hours. India is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country in coming weeks, surpassing the U.S. The ministry also reported 918 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 108,334. The number of people who have died of COVID-19 has remained relatively low in South and Southeast Asia — from India to Vietnam and Taiwan — compared to European countries and the United States, said Dr. Randeep Guleria, a government health expert. But others say India’s death toll may not be reliable because of poor reporting and health infrastructure and inadequate testing.

— South Korea will ease its social distancing rules, with its coronavirus caseload displaying a downward trend. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said Sunday that South Korea has counted an average of 59.4 new cases each day in the past two weeks, compared with 91.5 cases in the earlier two weeks. The country reported 58 new cases on Sunday, raising its total to 24,606, including 432 deaths. Under relaxed distancing guidelines effective from Monday, Park says some high-risk facilities like nightclubs and karaoke bars will be allowed to reopen but must follow anti-virus steps like wearing masks and keeping a list of clients. Park says South Korea will also lift a ban on the gatherings of more than 50 people indoors and over 100 outdoors. He says community welfare centers will also be reopened while professional sports leagues can have a limited number of fans back to stadiums, up to 30% of stadium capacity.

— Two wards and an operation room at Sri Lanka’s main hospital have been closed as a precautionary measure as a new cluster of coronavirus cases centered at a garment factory in the capital’s suburbs continues to grow. The health ministry announced the move Sunday after three workers at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka in the capital, Colombo, tested positive for the virus. The workers are linked to the garment factory cluster, which has surged over the past week. By Sunday, the number of infections linked to the cluster climbed to 1,186, with more than 2,000 other people asked to quarantine at home. Last weekend, the Indian Ocean island nation reported its first locally transmitted infection in more than two months, which led to the discovery of the cluster centered around a garment factory in the densely populated western province that is home to Colombo.


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