Asia Today: Australian state’s infections ‘relatively flat’

International

Flinders Street Station is quiet during lockdown due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus in Melbourne, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Victoria state, Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, announced on Monday that businesses will be closed and scaled down in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The coronavirus infection rate in Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has been “relatively flat” in the past week, a state health official said.

Victoria registered 450 new cases and 11 deaths on Friday.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said almost a third of the latest cases — 139 —were health care workers.

“Our nurses, doctors, ambulance, paramedics, cooks, cleaners, orderlies, ward clerks, everybody in our hospital system, they are not the front-line, they are the last line of defense. And I would just ask all Victorians to follow the rules to protect themselves but also to protect our dedicated healthcare team. They are heroes,” Andrews said.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton described the latest tally as “reasonable,” noting that numbers would fluctuate due to laboratory processes.

“The trend overall is that we’re kind of sitting at 400 to 500 cases a day. That is relatively flat over the last week,” Sutton said.

Melbourne University epidemiologist Tony Blakely said mandatory mask-wearing had started curbing the coronavirus spread.

The infection rate began to plateau at the end of July, a week after Melbourne residents risked fines if they left home without a mask, Blakely said.

Tougher lockdown restrictions came into force in Melbourne on Thursday for the next six weeks.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India has recorded more than 2 million cases of coronavirus infection and deaths exceed 41,000. The health ministry said Friday 62,538 cases were reported in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s total to 2,027,074. Also, 886 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, for a total of 41,585. Recovered patients as a share of total cases are also growing. India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths and its fatality rate of about 2.05% is far lower than the other hardest-hit countries. Even as the capital New Delhi and the financial hub Mumbai appear to have passed their peaks, other regions of the country are seeing sharp spikes in cases and are reimposing lockdowns.

— Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the semi-autonomous Chinese city will offer free coronavirus testing for all of its 7.5 million residents beginning in two weeks. Lam says the testing will help gauge the level of transmission in the community, find those who may be carrying the virus without showing symptoms, and reassure the public. She told reporters: “Put simply, anyone in the community who wants to do a test can take the test. We won’t care if they come from high-risk groups or not.” Lam says the tests will be carried out in a way to avoid lines and maintain social distancing. Lam’s government has cited the virus as the reason for postponing elections for the city’s Legislative Council originally scheduled for September in what the opposition camp called a political move. Hong Kong has been struggling to contain a new outbreak in which it is adding around 100 new cases per day. The city has recorded more than 3,800 cases, including 46 deaths.

— Beijing reported its first new case of COVID-19 from local transmission in a week. State media said Friday the case was linked to a recent outbreak in the northern port city of Dalian and the patient had been under monitoring for several days before testing positive. China’s capital has registered only a few scattered new cases since bringing to heel a June outbreak linked to a wholesale food market that caused 335 infections and anti-virus restrictions have been relaxed. Overall, newly reported cases of COVID-19 in China remained level, with 37 reported on Friday by the National Health Commission. An ongoing outbreak in the northwestern region of Xinjiang accounted for 26 of them, while 10 cases were brought by Chinese travelers from outside the country. Hong Kong continues to deal with its latest outbreak, with 95 new cases and three additional fatalities reported.

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