Asia-Pacific countries ramp up measures to curb spread of COVID-19, Aussie PM declares biosecurity emergency
HONG KONG, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Asia-Pacific countries are imposing stricter measures to fight against COVID-19 as the number of confirmed cases keeps climbing.
South Korea reported 93 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of midnight Wednesday local time, raising the total number of infections to 8,413.
The newly confirmed cases stayed below 100 for the fourth consecutive day, after recording the first double-digit growth in 23 days on Sunday.
Three more deaths were confirmed, lifting the death toll to 84. The total fatality rate came in at 1 percent.
The cluster infections accounted for about 80 percent of the total, and some 60 percent were traced to the Sincheonji sect.
Japan's Health Ministry and local governments on Wednesday said the number of COVID-19 infections rose to 876 as of 6:30 p.m. local time, with 39 new cases reported compared with Tuesday.
The death toll in Japan from the virus currently stands at a total of 36 people, according to the health ministry, with the figure including those from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama, close to Tokyo.
Of the 876 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan, the majority are in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, which has confirmed 154 cases and previously declared a state of emergency over the situation.
The health ministry said a total of 60 patients were considered severely ill and are on ventilators to receive respiratory assistance or have been admitted to intensive care units for medical treatment.
The ministry added that a total of 679 people have been discharged from hospitals after their symptoms improved.
There have been 454 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia as of Wednesday morning, an increase of 21 percent from 375 as of Tuesday morning, according to data from the Department of Health.
However, NSW health department announced on Wednesday afternoon that the total number of confirmed cases in the state had increased to 267 and the total number in Australia passed 500.
An 86-year-old man has become the sixth person to die in Australia after contracting COVID-19, health authorities in the state of New South Wales (NSW) reported on Wednesday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday declared an unprecedented human biosecurity emergency, warning Australians to stay at home and not to travel abroad. The emergency state would give the government extra powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The prime minister said there is no "two-week answer", short-term and quick fix to what the country is facing.
The new measures were agreed during a meeting between Morrison and other state and territory leaders on Tuesday night.
Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned effective immediately, while the limit for outdoor events will remain 500.
The government has issued a level-four travel ban for the entire world. It comes after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Tuesday night urged all Australians abroad to return home as soon as possible.
Despite the ban on mass gatherings, Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said schools would remain open on the advice of experts.
Morrison also announced limits on visits to aged care facilities where three of the five deaths in Australia from COVID-19 occured.
Anyone who has been overseas or in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within 14 days will be banned from visiting such facilities and residents will only be allowed to have two visitors at a time.
Australians have also been warned not to visit remote indigenous communities in an attempt to prevent COVID-19 from reaching them.
Malaysia confirmed 117 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 790, as the country implemented comprehensive restrictive measures to contain the outbreak.
Of the new cases, at least 80 had been traced to a large scale religious event held in the capital of Kuala Lumpur from late February to early March, Health Minister Adham Baba said in a statement.
Malaysia has reported the country's first death cases on Tuesday, with two patients with COVID-19 passed away.
Minister Adham also urged the public to comply with the comprehensive restrictive measures in place from March 18 to March 31, including travel bans, warning that those who failed to do so would face penalties.
The police have also announced a ban of interstate travel, preventing people crossing state lines unless they had secured permission from authorities.
Thailand's Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday reported 35 new COVID-19 cases in its largest one-day increase so far, bringing the total number to 212.
The ministry said 13 of the new confirmed cases were visitors to boxing stadiums, four went to entertainment places and 12 had close contact with previous patients.
The Ministry of Public Health also warned there may be more infections, between 30 and 50 cases each day.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for unity with responsibility to win the war against COVID-19 in a televised address to the nation.
In the speech on Tuesday evening, the prime minister said, "We need to protect ourselves and others to prove that we are a responsible nation. Do not panic. The government will try its best to control the disease, provide medical facilities and ensure supplies."
Khan told people to support the government in its efforts against the disease by staying at home to judge themselves, avoiding attending public gatherings, taking other precautionary measures and going for medical checkup only if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
The prime minister urged the people to learn from China in combating the disease and hailed China's successful efforts to control the virus spread, saying, "At the time when the number of cases are increasing in the world, the affected people are decreasing in China, which is very good news."
The country has recorded at least 235 positive patients of COVID-19 so far.
The COVID-19 outbreak has claimed 19 lives in Indonesia, the government said on Wednesday.
The government's spokesperson for all coronavirus-related matters Achmad Yurianto said that total cases of COVID-19 in the archipelagic country has increased to 227.
According to him, 11 people have recovered from the disease.
Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India rose to 147 Wednesday, India's federal health ministry said.
On Tuesday the number of cases in the country was 137.
So far India has reported three deaths.
India's federal government has deputed 30 additional secretaries and joint secretaries to assist the state governments in effective management of COVID-19.
India's iconic monument of love - Taj Mahal was closed down Tuesday amid COVID-19 scare, officials said.
"As a precautionary measure in wake of outbreak of novel coronavirus, the world-famous tourist attraction Taj Mahal at Agra has been closed for tourists until the end of this month," a local government official said.
The Philippines now has 202 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 17 deaths. The department of health said that seven patients have recovered from the viral disease.
The country has lifted the 72-hour window for outbound flight, allowing foreigners to travel abroad from Luzon during the "enhanced community quarantine" in the area.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles told a press conference late Tuesday that foreigners can travel abroad from Luzon during the "enhanced community quarantine" period, which was imposed to fight the rapid rise of COVID-19.
Foreign nationals leaving for abroad shall be allowed to leave the Philippines anytime for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine, Nograles said.
Outbound passengers were previously given until March 19 to leave the Philippines after Luzon was placed under enhanced community quarantine by President Rodrigo Duterte, in a drastic bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
As of Wednesday noon, a total of 68 infection cases have been reported in Vietnam with 16 patients having been discharged after recovery. There have been no deaths in the country so far.
Vietnam has temporarily suspended visa issuance for all foreign nationals for 30 days starting from Wednesday with exception given for entrants for diplomatic or official purposes as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The country's national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines announced that it would suspend flights between Vietnam and France from Tuesday night until further notice, between Vietnam and Malaysia until March 31.
The Vietnamese government temporarily suspended visa issuance for all foreign nationals for 30 days starting from Wednesday with exception given for entrants for diplomatic or official purposes as part of the efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Health Ministry figures said 43 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, and a majority of them returned from Italy.
Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has formed a National Operation Center, tasked to curb the spread of COVID-19 and has appointed Sri Lanka's Army Chief Shavendra Silva to head it, local media reports said here.
The president has called on Sri Lankans to temporarily halt travel, public gatherings or celebrations as this would enable the government to completely control the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, the President's Office said in a statement.
Sri Lanka police on Wednesday announced a curfew in the Puttalam District in the northwestern province, and Negombo in the west coast in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The police said the curfew will be imposed from 4:30 p.m. local time until further notice.
Cambodia confirmed Wednesday that two more Malaysian men were tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of the confirmed cases in the kingdom to 35.
New Zealand's total COVID-19 cases climbed to 20 after eight new cases were confirmed on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement that the eight cases all have associations with international travel. There are four new cases in Auckland, one in Christchurch, two in Waikato and one in Invercargill.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said all of the cases are New Zealanders who have returned from overseas and they are in self-isolation.
He stressed the value of placing restrictions on travel, which would help curb the community outbreak in New Zealand.
Bangladesh on Wednesday reported the country's first death related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The man in his 70s was one of the 14 cases reported in the county to date.
Four new COVID-19 cases were reported in Bangladesh on Wednesday.
The country's first three COVID-19 patients have already been discharged from hospital after recovery.
Maldives currently has 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and is under a State of Public Health Emergency.
The government of Maldives has decided to increase Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity and bring more test kits into the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local media reported here Wednesday.
The government of Maldives has also decided to reduce state expenditure by 64.8 million U.S. dollars so as to save resources to contain a COVID-19 outbreak.
Myanmar imported about 15 tons of raw materials for local garment factories in order to lessen the impact of COVID-19 crisis in the industry, according to a release from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) on Wednesday.
A cargo plane loaded with the imported raw materials from China's Guangzhou arrived at Yangon International Airport in Myanmar late Tuesday.