Asian countries forced to lock down again amid new spikes in COVID-19 cases, deaths – National – fr

Asian countries forced to lock down again amid new spikes in COVID-19 cases, deaths – National – fr

Taxi drivers are starving for customers, weddings are suddenly called off, schools are closed and food service is restricted across much of Asia as the coronavirus resurfaces in countries where it seemed well under control .

Sparsely populated Mongolia has seen its death toll climb from 15 to 233, while Taiwan, considered a major success in the fight against the virus, has recorded more than 1,000 cases since last week and placed more than 600,000 people. in medical isolation for two weeks.

Hong Kong and Singapore have postponed a second time a non-quarantine travel bubble after an outbreak in Singapore of uncertain origin. China, which has all but eradicated local infections, has seen new cases apparently linked to contact with people arriving from overseas.

The resurgence has not come close to the carnage in India and parts of Europe, but it is a vivid reminder that the virus remains resilient, despite strict mask mandates, case detection, testing for mass and wider deployment of the latest weapon against him – vaccinations.

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This delays efforts to bring social and economic life back to normal, especially in schools and sectors like the hospitality industry that rely on public contact.

In Taiwan, the outbreak is due to the most easily transmissible variant first identified in Britain, according to Chen Chien-jen, epidemiologist and former vice president of the island, who led the response to the very pandemic. appreciated last year.

To complicate matters, there are older people who frequent slightly racy “tea rooms” in the Wanhua district of Taipei. They accounted for about 375 of the new cases on Tuesday, Chen said. Teahouses are known to provide adult entertainment with song and dance.

“These old people, when they go to these places, want it to be veiled,” Chen said. “When we do the investigation, they may not be honest.”

In Wanhua, normally a bustling area with food stalls, shops, and entertainment venues, the Huaxi Night Market and the historic Longshan Buddhist Temple are closed.

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Kao Yu-chieh, who runs a breakfast shop in the area, said business was down at least 50% from last week.

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Taxi driver Wang Hsian Jhong said he had not had a customer for three days. “Everyone is affected. It is a Taiwan-wide problem. We have to get out of this, ”he said, smoking a cigarette on a street in Wanhua.

Schools, gymnasiums and swimming pools are closed in Taipei, and gatherings of more than five people indoors and more than 10 people outdoors are prohibited. The island closed all schools as of Wednesday.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has sought to reassure an audience that is returning to panic and avoidance of public places.

“We will continue to build our medical capacity,” Tsai said, adding that the vaccines are coming from overseas.

Malaysia unexpectedly imposed a month-long lockdown until June 7, spooked by a sharp rise in cases, more infectious variants and low public compliance with health measures.

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It was the second national lockdown in just over a year and came after the country’s cases quadrupled since January to more than 474,000. Interstate travel and social activities are banned, schools are closed and restaurants can only provide take-out service. The government has warned that hospitals have almost maximized their capacity to take on new cases of the coronavirus.

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Singapore has imposed strict social distancing measures until June 13, limiting public gatherings to two people and banning catering service in restaurants.

This came after the number of coronavirus infections of untraceable origin rose to 42 last week, from seven the week before. Singapore had previously been touted as a role model after keeping the virus at bay for months.

Schools moved online after students at several institutions tested positive. Wedding receptions are no longer permitted and funerals are capped at 20 people.

For wedding planner Michelle Lau, at least seven clients have canceled or postponed weddings that are supposed to take place within the next month. Other couples opted for a simple ceremony without a reception, she said.

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Janey Chang, who runs two Latin dance studios in Singapore, says the tighter restrictions have significantly reduced class sizes.

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“We take in fewer students, but the costs such as rent remain the same,” Chang said. “Our ability to continue to operate is highly dependent on the number of coronavirus cases.”

Hong Kong has responded to the new outbreaks by increasing the quarantine requirement from 14 to 21 days for unvaccinated travelers from “high-risk” countries including Singapore, Malaysia and Japan, and, further, the Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands and Kenya.

China has set up checkpoints at toll booths, airports and train stations in Liaoning province, where four more cases were reported on Tuesday. Travelers must have proof of a recent negative viral test and mass testing has been ordered in part of Yingkou, a port city with sea links to more than 40 countries.

Thailand reported 35 deaths on Tuesday, the highest since the outbreak began. This brought his death toll to 649, of which 555 were reported in the latest wave. About three-quarters of Thailand’s 116,000 cases have been recorded since the start of April.

Thailand has recorded around 7,100 cases, including 63 deaths, over the past year, which has been considered a success.

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The resurgence has posed difficult choices for governments, especially in poorer countries where foreclosure restrictions can increase the financial suffering of those already living on the brink of famine.

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In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte eased a lockdown in the bustling capital and adjacent provinces to fight economic recession and hunger, but still banned public gatherings this month, when many Roman Catholic festivals are held.

COVID-19 infections began to climb in March to some of the worst levels in Asia, surpassing 10,000 a day and prompting Duterte to impose the lockdown on Manila and surrounding areas in April. The Philippines has reported more than 1.1 million infections and more than 18,800 deaths, although the outbreak has started to subside.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the partial resumption of economic activities, increased non-compliance with restrictions and inadequate tracing of those exposed to the virus combined to trigger the surge in infections.

Experts said the delivery of vaccines, even delayed and in small quantities, also fostered false confidence that the pandemic could end.

Soo reported from Singapore. Associated Press editors Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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