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Sunday September 27th, 2020 12:08AM

Asia Today: India adds over 83,000 cases, nears 5 million

By The Associated Press
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NEW DELHI (AP) — India confirmed more than 83,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing its total caseload to nearly 5 million.

The Health Ministry also reported 1,054 new deaths, driving total fatalities up to 80,776.

With 4.93 million confirmed cases, India has the second-highest total in the world after the U.S. Infections have maintained an upward surge amid an ease in coronavirus restrictions nationwide. More than 600,000 new cases have been confirmed in the last week alone.

Maharashtra, with more than 1 million cases, remains the worst-affected state in India, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

India, however, also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country’s recovery rate stands at 77.8%, with nearly 3.8 million people recovering from the virus so far, according to the Health Ministry.

India’s Parliament, which reopened Monday after being shut down for more than five months due to the coronavirus, said that more than 10 million migrant laborers had made their way back to their home states from various corners of the country during a strict nationwide lockdown. It said there was no data available for the number of migrant deaths.

A flood of migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, poured out of cities and headed back to villages when Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The unprecedented migration was one key reason that the virus spread to the far reaches of the country.

The lockdown also caused a severe economic crisis. India's economy contracted nearly 24% in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Nearly 1.8 million Hong Kong residents took voluntary coronavirus tests as part of a massive community testing program, resulting in 42 cases being identified, the government said Tuesday. The two-week testing program, which ended Monday, was aimed at identifying silent carriers of the coronavirus to reduce a wave of cases that began in July. Although the total number of people tested fell short of the government’s initial estimate of four to five million, officials say the program met its objectives. “We have identified confirmed cases, we’ve isolated them and given them treatment to cut the transmission chain.,” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said at a news conference. China’s central government provided resources and staff for the testing program, and many Hong Kong residents expressed fear that DNA might be collected despite the Hong Kong government dismissing such concerns. Hong Kong reported no new local coronavirus infections on Tuesday for the first time in over two months. The government said it would further relax social-distancing measures, allowing bars, amusement parks and swimming pools to reopen. Restaurants will also be allowed to serve customers until midnight. However, a ban on public gatherings of more than four people remains in place. Hong Kong has recorded 4,976 infections, including 101 deaths.

— Thailand’s Cabinet has approved in principle a plan to begin reopening the country to foreign tourists by issuing special renewable 90-day visas and limiting their numbers to 1,200 a month. Deputy Government Spokeswoman Traisulee Traisaranakul said Tuesday that the program, proposed to begin next moth, is an effort to boost the coronavirus-battered tourism sector, a major revenue earner. Traisulee said the program is expected to generate about 1 billion baht ($32 million) a month. Thailand in early April barred scheduled commercial passenger flights from abroad, though some airlines have resumed limited repatriation flights. Under the plan, whose details have not been finalized, visitors would have to pay to stay in quarantine at a hotel or hospital for 14 days on arrival, and show confirmation that they have made arrangements for long-term accommodation. The cost of the special tourist visa would be 2,000 baht ($64), with the same charge for each of two allowed renewals. Health officials on Tuesday reported five new cases of coronavirus, all people already quarantined after arriving from abroad, bringing the total to 3,480, including 58 deaths.

— China has reported eight new coronavirus cases, all from people who entered the country, including two Myanmar nationals who crossed the land border at the Chinese city of Ruili. Myanmar has seen a surge in new cases. On Friday, it reimposed tough measures to control the disease. Ruili was placed under lockdown on Monday evening, with people banned from leaving the city and residents quarantined at home for a week. A government statement said all residents of the city would be tested for the virus and authorities would crack down on the area’s notorious cross-border smuggling trade. The border itself was closed and additional restrictions placed on outlying villages. China has gone a month without new cases of domestic infection.

— South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has stayed in the low 100s for a third consecutive day, maintaining a downward trajectory. The 106 cases added Tuesday brought the country’s total to 22,391, including 367 deaths. South Korea’s daily jump has remained in triple digits for more than a month, but its caseload has recently gradually slowed down in the wake of stringent social distancing rules. The government on Monday relaxed physical distancing guidelines in the greater Seoul area, the heart of a recent viral resurgence.

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