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Asia Today: Melbourne holds off on easing amid new outbreak

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A worker wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, right, stands watch masked tourists walk by his souvenir shop in Beijing, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. With the outbreak of COVID-19 largely under control within China's borders, the routines of normal daily life have begun to return for its citizens. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

MELBOURNE – A COVID-19 outbreak in the north of Melbourne has led health authorities in Australia's Victoria state to hold off on any further easing of restrictions in the beleaguered city.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews withheld any announcement on an easing on Sunday as the state awaits results on 3,000 people who were tested in the city’s north in the past 24 hours.

He described it as a “cautious pause” - not a setback - to rule out there wasn’t widespread community transmission linked to the cluster.

Among the current restrictions are mandatory wearing of masks and no traveling beyond 25 kilometers (15 miles) from home. At the start of the second wave of cases two months ago, Andrews instituted an overnight curfew and shut down most businesses.

“I know it is frustrating,” Andrews said. “I know people are keen to have a long and detailed list of changes to the rules. It is not appropriate for us to do that now.”″

Victoria reported seven new coronavirus cases on Sunday, with six linked to the latest outbreak, which involves 39 people across 11 households.

No additional deaths kept the state toll at 817 and the national toll at 905.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Schools and kindergartens have been suspended and communities are on lockdown in Kashgar, a city in China’s northwest Xinjiang region, after more than 130 asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus were discovered. One case was found on Saturday. On Sunday, local health authorities announced that there were an additional 137 asymptomatic people who tested positive, many connected to one factory. They said that over 308,000 people have been tested for the virus. Police in Kashgar also issued a notice on their social media account urging locals to “not believe rumors and not spread rumors.” In addition, China reported 15 other new cases of the virus on Sunday, all of them imported, bringing the country’s total to 85,790, which does not include the Kashgar cases. The death toll from the outbreak in China remained at 4,634, according to the National Health Commission.

— Sri Lankan authorities have terminated a number of passenger trains and widened the curfew as COVID-19 cases related to a new cluster at a garment factory continue to surge. The Railway Department canceled at least 16 trains — mostly ran through busy office hours — after the number of commuters declined due to the curfew imposed in many parts of the country. More than a dozen villages are isolated in densely populated Western province, which includes capital Colombo. Authorities last week closed the island’s main fish market on Colombo’s outskirts after 49 traders tested positive for the coronavirus. By Sunday, the number of cases from the fish market went up to nearly 900. Authorities say the outbreak is linked to a cluster in a garment factory early this month, which has grown to 4,052 cases, more than half the country’s total of 7,521. During the last 24 hours, 368 new cases have been detected. In a bid to contain the spread, health authorities also closed three fishery harbors and many fish stalls around the country. Several thousand people have been asked to quarantine at home. Schools and key public offices are closed and gatherings banned. The death toll rose to 15 on Saturday.

— India’s daily coronavirus cases have dropped to nearly 50,000, maintaining a downturn over the last few weeks. 0The Health Ministry says 50,129 new cases have taken the overall tally to nearly 7.9 million on Sunday. It also reported 578 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 118,534. The ministry also said India’s active coronavirus cases were below 700,000 across the country and almost 7.1 million people had recovered from COVID-19. India is second to the United States with the largest outbreak of the coronavirus. Last month, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily cases have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third. Some experts say the decline in cases suggests that the virus may have finally reached a plateau but others question the testing methods. India is relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.


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