BANGKOK -- India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed China’s, with the Health Ministry on Saturday reporting a spike to 85,940 infections and 2,752 deaths.
China has reported 82,941 confirmed case and 4,633 deaths since the virus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan.
The worst-hit Indian states are Maharashtra with 29,100 cases, Tamil Nadu with 10,108, Gujarat with 9,931 and New Delhi with 8,895.
In the last 24 hours, India had confirmed 3,970 new cases and 103 fatalities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is due to announce a decision this weekend on whether to extend the 54-day-old lockdown.
Early this month, the government started gradually easing the restrictions to resume economic activity by allowing neighborhood shops to reopen and manufacturing and farming to resume. It also has resumed limited train services across the country to help stranded migrant workers, students and tourists.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— NEPAL REPORTS FIRST VIRUS DEATH: Nepal's Health Ministry said Saturday that a woman who recently gave birth before becoming sick died Thursday at a hospital near Kathmandu, becoming the country's first known fatality from the coronavirus. The 29-year-old woman gave birth on May 8 in Kathmandu and then returned home. She was brought to a hospital near her village after falling sick. Hospital results showed that she tested positive for the virus. Nepal has 281 confirmed cases. A lockdown imposed on March 24 to stop the spread of the virus has been extended several times and is scheduled to end on Sunday. All flights and ground transport have been halted and people are prohibited from leaving their houses. All schools and most markets are closed.
— CHINA TO CUT SHORT ASSEMBLY: A Chinese official confirmed that the annual legislative session will be curtailed to protect public health during the coronavirus pandemic. Zhang Yesui, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, did not indicate how much it would be shortened. He told the official Xinhua News Agency that the agenda and schedule would be approved before the session starts in Beijing on May 22. The congress, delayed from March because of the outbreak, normally lasts about two weeks. Police have announced a ban on drones and other low-flying objects from May 20-28 because of the meeting, so this year’s could run about a week. China’s ruling Communist Party decided to go ahead with the meeting of 3,000 delegates after largely stopping the spread of the virus. But some government officials will join breakout sessions with deputies via video link, and news conferences will also be conducted remotely by video.
— NO SPECIAL FAVORS: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern found out there are no exceptions when it comes to social distancing after she was initially turned away from a cafe because it was too full under coronavirus guidelines. Ardern and her fiance, Clarke Gayford, decided to get brunch Saturday at Olive, a restaurant in the capital, Wellington. That was two days after the country relaxed many of its lockdown rules, including reopening restaurants. But groups must remain at least 1 meter (3 feet) apart from each other. Many restaurants have limited their seating to comply with the rules. What happened next played out on Twitter: “Omg Jacinda Ardern just tried to come into Olive and was rejected cause it’s full,” wrote one Twitter user, Joey. Gayford took the time to respond: “I have to take responsibility for this, I didn’t get organized and book anywhere. Was very nice of them to chase us down st (street) when a spot freed up. A+ service.”
— SOUTH KOREA NIGHTCLUB CASES WANE: South Korean officials have so far confirmed 162 coronavirus cases linked to club goers in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, and are expressing cautious hope that infections are beginning to wane. Health Ministry official Son Young-rae said Saturday that the country may have ducked a major surge in transmissions in a region where half of its 51 million people live. Son noted that the daily increase in infections has been within 30 over the past few days despite a jump in tests. Son said 46,000 people have so far been tested following a slew of infections linked to clubs and other nightspots in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district. “It’s notable there were no new transmissions in churches, call centers and gyms where virus carriers went to,” said Son. Authorities have expanded anonymous testing after some media described the clubs linked to infections as catering to sexual minorities, which raised concern that people may be discouraged from coming forward in fear of homophobic backlash.
— WARNING AS AUSTRALIA EASES MEASURES: Restrictions put in place to stop the coronavirus from spreading across Australia have eased, but the public was warned to take their newfound freedoms carefully in order to prevent a second wave of the pandemic. States and territories have begun the first of a three-stage process to lift restrictions on outdoor and indoor gatherings and business operations. Australians will get to sit in pubs, cafes and restaurants for the first time in weeks after isolation and social distancing measures kept the lid on infections and COVID-19 deaths. But Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone urged people to remain vigilant because the virus is still present in the community and could flare up. The number of confirmed cases passed 7,000 on Friday, but the death toll from the pandemic remains at a relatively low 98.
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