Australian states tightened borders and restricted pub visits on Tuesday, while Disney prepared to close its Hong Kong theme park and Japan stepped up tracing as a jump in novel coronavirus cases across Asia fanned fears of a second wave of infections, Reuters writes.
Many parts of Asia, the region first hit by the coronavirus that emerged in central China late last year, are finding cause to pause the reopening of their economies, some after winning praise for their initial responses to the outbreak.
Australia largely avoided the high numbers of cases and casualties seen in other countries with swift and strict measures, but a spike in community-transmitted cases in Victoria state and a rise in new cases in New South Wales has worried authorities.
South Australia cancelled plans to reopen its border to New South Wales on July 20, while Queensland introduced a mandatory two-week quarantine for people who have visited two areas in Sydney’s western suburbs.
New South Wales, which has seen several dozen cases linked to the outbreak in Victoria, said pubs will be limited to 300 people, responding to an outbreak centred at a large hotel in southwestern Sydney.
“Indoor activity, where people aren’t seated is a huge health risk. It increases the chance of transmission,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, is in the second week of a six-week lockdown.
The number of coronavirus infections around the world hit 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, climbing by a million in just five days.
The pandemic has now killed more than half a million people in six-and-a-half months. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the pandemic would worsen if countries failed to adhere to strict precautions.
“Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing on Monday.
Hong Kong, which suffered remarkably few cases in the first wave of the pandemic, will impose strict social distancing measures from midnight on Tuesday, the most stringent yet in the Asian financial hub.
Hong Kong recorded 52 new cases on Monday, including 41 that were locally transmitted, health authorities said. Since late January, Hong Kong has reported 1,522 cases and media reported an eighth death on Monday.
“The recent emergence of local cases of unknown infection source indicates the existence of sustained silent transmission in the community,” the Hong Kong government said.
Walt Disney Co said it is temporarily closing its Hong Kong Disneyland theme park from Wednesday, Reuters adds.
China, which has contained a cluster in Beijing in recent weeks, loosened border restrictions between Macau and the neighbouring province of Guangdong, sending shares of Macau casino operators surging.