Asia Today: China reports 2 virus cases after mass testing

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People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk through a shopping arcade at the Asakusa district Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Tokyo. The Japanese capital confirmed more than 180 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

BEIJING – China on Tuesday reported two new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming larger ones.

The National Health Commission said there were two new locally spread cases in the previous 24-hour period, one in each city. It also reported 20 cases among people who had arrived from overseas.

In Shanghai, the mass testing of 17,719 workers at the city’s Pudong aiport found one infection, a Fedex employee. Everyone else tested negative.

Three UPS workers at the airport have also tested positive in recent days, along with the wife of one of them. In all, Shanghai has reported eight non-imported cases since Friday.

In Tianjin, where 2.3 million people had been tested as of Monday, the city reported one case in a person who developed symptoms after testing positive earlier. China does not include people without symptoms in its confirmed case count.

To date, the health commission has recorded 86,464 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Authorities in Hong Kong have ordered bars and nightclubs to close as the city grapples with new local infections. From midnight on Thursday, entertainment venues such as bars, nightclubs and saunas must shut temporarily as part of tightened social distancing measures. The city on Tuesday reported 80 new infections, its highest daily increase since the first week of August. Of the new cases, 54 were linked to an outbreak in dancing studios which so far has led to 187 infections. Health minister Sophia Chan said Tuesday that there are “multiple transmission chains” in the city as well as infections with untraceable sources, and that social distancing measures must be tightened. She urged people to avoid large gatherings and stay at home. Authorities are also making it compulsory for hotels, restaurants and fitness centers to display a QR code linked to the government’s “Leave Home Safe” mobile app to facilitate contact tracing. Health officials are also making it compulsory for high-risk groups to be tested for the virus, including taxi drivers and staff working at homes for the disabled or elderly. Hong Kong has recorded 5,782 infections, including 108 deaths.

— Philippine officials say about 60 million Filipinos are being targeted for vaccination against the coronavirus next year at a cost of more than 73 billion pesos ($1.4 billion) to develop considerable immunity among a majority of Filipinos. Carlito Galvez Jr., who oversees government efforts to secure the vaccines, said negotiations were underway with four Western and Chinese pharmaceutical companies, including U.S.-based Pfizer Inc. and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., to secure the vaccines early next year. He said that one company based in the U.K., AstraZeneca, can commit to supply up to 20 million vaccines. The Philippines has had more than 420,000 confirmed cases, the second-most in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia, and 8,173 deaths.

— Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged states that are experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases to establish cold storage facilities for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and asked them to review the situation. Modi’s meeting Tuesday with heads of the states comes at a time when India’s cases have soared past 9.18 million. More than 134,000 people have died from COVID-19. Modi said his government is in touch with vaccine developers around the world. “Our priority is to make the vaccine available for all,” he said. “This mission of coronavirus vaccination of each citizen is like a national commitment.” India has some of the world’s biggest vaccine makers and there are five vaccine candidates under different trial stages in the country. But state-run cold storage facilities used to keep vaccines refrigerated are inadequate for the enormous challenge of distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. To address the issue, the government is augmenting cold storage facilities and transport systems for vaccines. It is also readying a database of healthcare and frontline workers who will be inoculated first. Even though the number of new daily cases nationwide has remained below 50,000 for several weeks after peaking in September, the situation in some states, including Delhi, has given rise to concern. Several cities are seeing a jump in cases and are implementing stricter restrictions like night curfews. On Tuesday, the country reported 37,975 new confirmed cases and 480 more deaths.


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