Asia Today: New Delhi reverses limits on testing, sickbeds

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A member of Indonesia Red Cross sprays disinfectant in an attempt to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus inside a classroom at a school in Jakarta, Indonesia Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

BANGKOK – New Delhi has reversed orders that limited the scope of coronavirus testing and reserved hospital beds for city residents as the Indian capital’s caseload continues to surge.

Delhi’s numbers of infected jumped to 29,943 on Tuesday of India’s 266,598 total cases nationwide.

Since coming to power in 2013, the government led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has prioritized investing in health care. Delhi has the best health care in India, drawing patients from across the country.

But as lockdown restrictions have eased in recent weeks, the number of people infected with the coronavirus has soared in the capital. On Sunday, Kejriwal announced that hospital beds for COVID-19 patients would be reserved for Delhi residents and testing limited to those with symptoms of the disease.

But the central government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly objected to the rules, and late Monday the Delhi government set them aside, with Kejriwal tweeting that “making arrangements for treatment for people from across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic is a major challenge. But maybe it’s God’s will that we have to serve everyone in the country.”

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— MAGSAYSAY AWARDS CANCELED: The Ramon Magsaysay awards have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, marking only the third disruption in six decades for the annual prize regarded as an Asian Nobel. The Philippine foundation that hands out the awards said it has no choice “with the COVID-19 pandemic practically immobilizing the world.” Last year's recipients included a South Korean who helped fight suicide and bullying; a Thai human rights defender; journalists from India and Myanmar; and a musician credited with helping to shape modern Philippine musical culture. The Philippines has about 22,400 coronavirus cases, including more than 1,000 deaths.

— SPECTATORS FOR AUSSIE FOOTBALL: South Australia state will allow 2,000 fans to attend an Australian rules football match on Saturday but won’t allow a Black Lives Matter rally on the same day. South Australia is the first state or territory to allow a crowd to return to professional sport. Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said spectators will be allowed at a match between Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows. But they wouldn't grant a second exemption from social distancing rules for a protest against the death of George Floyd. Stevens said the rally last week had been allowed due to unique circumstances. “To continually allow people to disregard the restrictions we have in place would make a mockery of the good efforts of everybody else who are doing their best to abide by those restrictions,” Stevens added.

— US TO REOPEN WUHAN CONSULATE: The U.S. State Department has notified Congress that it plans to re-open the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, China, later this month as relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate over the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, trade and China’s policies in Hong Kong. The consulate had been shut in late January due to the virus outbreak that is believed to have originated in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. The consulate was one of only two U.S. diplomatic posts -- the other was the consulate in Vladivostok, Russia -- to completely suspend operations for virus-related reasons, although all U.S. missions severely curtailed their services. The State Department said it intends to open the Wuhan consulate “on or about June 22” but that the date could slip depending on local conditions. “At this critical juncture in U.S.-China relations, it is critical that our diplomatic posts in China are staffed,” said the notice, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. “At the current time, conditions in China generally, and Hubei province specifically, have improved to such a degree that resuming operations in Wuhan is appropriate,” it said.

— SOUTH KOREA CASES GROW: South Korea has reported 38 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death, bringing national totals to 11,852 infections and 274 virus-related fatalities. Figures from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday showed 35 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have struggled to trace transmissions linked to entertainment venues, church gatherings and low-income workers who couldn’t afford to stay home. At least 1,300 infections have been linked to international arrivals, with around 90% of them being South Koreans who returned home as the virus spread.

— NEPAL PROTEST: Police in riot gear fired a water cannon and beat protesters demonstrating over the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. About 200 protesters gathered on a road leading to the prime minister’s official residence with signs demanding more virus testing. The government has been criticized for limited testing, inadequate quarantine facilities and limited aid to poor people affected by the country's lockdown. The business community has been pressuring the government to ease restrictions despite the rising number of virus cases. Nepal has reported 3,762 confirmed cases and 14 deaths.

— INDONESIA CASES RISE: Indonesia reported a daily increase in coronavirus cases of more than 1,000 for the first time Tuesday as its total confirmed cases reached 33,076. Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said there were 1,043 new cases and 40 more deaths, taking the death toll to 1,923, the highest in Southeast Asia. New cases have been spiking as the government gradually allows businesses to resume operations amid growing economic pressures in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.