India’s cases surge again; China opens Congress

Updated May 23 2020

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The 6,088 fresh cases reported in India in the last 24 hours took the national total to 118,447.  — AFP/File
The 6,088 fresh cases reported in India in the last 24 hours took the national total to 118,447. — AFP/File

BANGKOK: India reported its biggest single-day spike in new virus cases on Friday ahead of resuming domestic flights after a two-month halt.

The 6,088 fresh cases reported in the last 24 hours took the national total to 118,447. Deaths rose to 3,583 while more than 48,000 people have recovered, according to the health ministry.

Maharashtra continues to remain the worst-affected state in India with more than 41,000 cases after it added over 2,000 new infections for the fourth straight day. The number of fatalities in the state rose to 1,454, highest in the country.

India has the 11th most confirmed cases in the world. It has eased its nationwide lockdown to restart economic activities and gave states more power to set the next phase of reopenings. Some domestic flights will resume from Monday.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: South Korea reported 20 new cases as authorities scramble to stem transmissions as schools are reopening. The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought national totals to 11,142 cases and 264 deaths. South Korea has managed to stabilise infections with aggressive tracing and testing. Its schools began reopening on Wednesday, though dozens in Incheon, near Seoul, sent students back home after some of them tested positive. More students are to return to schools next week. Meanwhile, South Korean health authorities are reviewing the possible use of Apple and Googles new smartphone technology that automatically notifies users when they’d come close to infected people. But officials also say it isn’t clear whether the Bluetooth-based apps would meaningfully boost the country’s technology-driven fight against Covid-19, where health workers have aggressively used cellphone data, credit-card records and surveillance footage to trace and isolate potential virus carriers.

China reported four new confirmed cases, including two in the northeastern province of Jilin that has seen China’s latest outbreak. Another 372 people are in isolation and undergoing monitoring for being suspected cases or for testing positive without showing symptoms; 82 people remain in hospitals being treated for Covid-19. The new cases come as China opens the delayed session of its ceremonial parliament, the National Peoples Congress, which is being held largely behind closed doors in Beijing to avoid cross-infections as China seeks to avoid a second-wave of cases. The country has reported a total of 4,634 deaths among 82,971 cases.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang says China has made solid progress in fighting the coronavirus outbreak, but must redouble our efforts to minimize the losses ... and fulfill the targets and tasks for economic and social development this year. In his address Friday to the annual session of China’s ceremonial parliament, Li called the outbreak the most challenging public health emergency China has encountered since the founding of the Peoples Republic in 1949. He said China wishes to strengthen cooperation with other countries on countering the virus, and uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core and an international order based on international law. The US in particular has been highly critical of China’s handling of the initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan and suspended funding for the UN’s World Health Organisation partly over what it says is a pro-China bias.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020