Asia News: Fewer sick in South Korea; Japan infections rise

A man wearing a face mask passes the Twin Towers during the movement control order issued to help curb the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, April 19, 2020. The Malaysian government issued a restricted movement order to the public till April 28, to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

South Korea reported just eight more cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, the first time a daily increase has dropped to single digits in about two months.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the additional figures raised the country’s total to 10,661, including 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 had 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:


Japan’s Health Ministry confirmed 568 new cases of the coronavirus, raising the nation’s total 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. 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.


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. The Health Ministry urged mask makers to fix the contamination problem and municipal officials to visually inspect the masks before mailing them.


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.

— McDONALD’S CLOSES SINGAPORE RESTAURANTS: McDonald’s is suspending all operations in Singapore for two weeks after seven of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus. The fast food giant said in a Facebook post that 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 reported 596 new infections on Sunday to raise its total to 6,588, including 11 deaths. The government has made it mandatory for people to wear masks outside their homes and imposed strict social distancing measures.

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