Asia Today: Fewer sick in S Korea, infections rise in Japan

Apr 19, 2020

South Korea has reported eight more cases of the coronavirus, the first time a daily increase has dropped to a single digit in about two months

BANGKOK (AP) — South Korea on Sunday reported eight more cases of the coronavirus, the first time a daily increase has dropped to a single digit in about two months.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the additional figures took the country’s total to 10,661 with 234 deaths. It said 8,042 people have recovered and been released from quarantine and 12,243 others were undergoing tests to determine whether they contracted the virus.

“We must not loosen our guard until the last confirmed patient is recovered.” President Moon Jae-in said.

South Korea’s caseload has been waning in recent weeks since it recorded hundreds of new cases every day between late February and early March, mostly in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas.

Despite the recent downward trend, South Korean officials have warned about the possibility of a broader “quiet spread” with people easing up on social distancing.

Moon urged South Koreans to support his government in saving jobs and revitalizing the economy.

“Government efforts alone aren’t enough amid a grave world economic crisis. Public solidarity and cooperation is also needed to revive our economy,” he said.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— HUNDREDS MORE INFECTED IN JAPAN: The Health Ministry on Sunday recorded 568 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the nation's toll to 11,073 with 174 deaths. The actual number of infections is believed to be higher as Japan is only starting to expand its testing capabilities by setting up additional testing centers in Tokyo and elsewhere. It allows primary care doctors to send suspected patients directly to testing stations. Experts say focusing on clusters in specific venues is no longer effective to keep up with the surging numbers and widespread testing is needed. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expanded a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other urban areas to all of Japan amid concerns that hospitals are already overburdened with the influx of patients. It took two months for the number of patients to reach 1,000 since mid-January, but the spread of the coronavirus has accelerated in recent weeks, doubling from around 5,000 in just 10 days.

— FILTHY CLOTH MASKS IN JAPAN: Japan's Health Ministry said it has received reports that some of the cloth masks it is distributing to households are dirty. Reports from 80 municipalities say the masks came with stains, dust and other contamination. The dirty masks were among half a million that the government started sending to pregnant women as a priority last week. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on April 1 the plan to mail two cloth masks each to 50 million households in Japan amid dire shortage of surgical masks. Abe's government has already been criticized for slow and inadequate coronavirus measures. The masks also seem to have a size problem. TV talk shows showed some caregivers in elderly care centers struggling to fit the masks. The ministry urged mask makers to fix the contamination problem and municipal officials to visually inspect the masks before mailing them.

— MORE SAILORS TEST POSITIVE IN TAIWAN: Two dozen crew members of a Taiwanese naval ship have tested positive for the new coronavirus after returning from a nearly two-month training mission that took them to the Pacific island nation of Palau. Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control said Sunday that 21 more cases had been identified from a refueling ship, on top of three reported Saturday. More than 700 officers and sailors from the refueling ship and the two warships that took part in the mission are in quarantine for 14 days. The CDC said that a Taiwanese student returning from the United States had also tested positive. That brought the total for Sunday to 22, an upward spike for the self-governing island. New cases had fallen to single digits in the past week, including three days in which none were reported.

— MCDONALD'S CLOSES SINGAPORE RESTAURANTS: Fast food giant McDonald’s says it will suspend all operations in Singapore from Sunday for two weeks after seven of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus. McDonald’s said in a Facebook post it decided to follow the Health Ministry’s advise to shut down until May 4 when Singapore’s partial lockdown ends. It said in would continue to pay the salaries of 10,000 employees working in more than 135 outlets across the city-state. Singapore on Saturday reported a record daily jump of 942 new infections, the highest one-day spike in Southeast Asia, for a total to 5,992. The government has made it mandatory for people to wear masks outside their homes and imposed strict social distancing measures.

___

Follow AP coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak