Asia Today: Virus sets off new school closures in Australia

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Felise Kaufusi of the Storm, center, celebrates with players after scoring a try during the Round 6 NRL match between Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm, in Sydney, Friday, June 19, 2020. A match in Australia’s National Rugby League between the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors due to be played on Friday has been moved from Melbourne to Sydney because of a spike in coronavirus cases in the state of Victoria. (Craig Golding/AAP Image via AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Victoria state has recorded 17 new cases of COVID-19, resulting in the closing of two primary schools in Melbourne. State Premier Daniel Andrews said there would be “significant community transmission” among the new cases.

Andrews said one of the new cases was from a person in hotel quarantine, two were from known outbreaks, three were from routine testing and 11 were under investigation.

The two schools have been closed for thorough cleaning after students from both schools tested positive for the coronavirus.

The suburbs where the schools are located are two of six local government hot spots in recent weeks.

Last weekend, Andrews said large family gatherings had been the catalyst for the virus taking off again in some areas after lockdown rules were eased.

“We have seen many families, large families, that have gathered in numbers beyond the rules,” he said. “I know and understand that all Victorians want this to be over but we simply can’t pretend the virus is gone.”

In the national capital Canberra, Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia’s borders will remain closed for “a very significant” amount of time.

Hunt says coronavirus infection rates were accelerating around the world.

“For the time being we are an island sanctuary,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

There have been 102 deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia and more than 7,400 infected.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— India has added nearly 15,000 new infections as states less affected by the initial surge of the virus are considering new lockdowns to staunch growing numbers. India’s health ministry said Tuesday the nationwide tally had reached 440,215 cases, including 14,011 deaths. The state of Delhi, which includes the capital of New Delhi, has reported 62,655 cases with the rate of new infections rapidly expanding in recent weeks as a nationwide lockdown has eased. States remote from the capital including Assam in the northeast that initially reported few cases have plans to reimpose stringent lockdowns in certain districts. Sonia Gandhi, president of the main opposition Congress party, has asked the government to extend a three-month free food distribution program that is due to expire soon to address a “hunger crisis.”

— South Korea says it’s testing 176 workers at the southern port of Busan following a coronavirus outbreak on a Russian cargo ship that has so far sickened 16. National Institute of Health director Kwon Jun-wook said all 21 crewmembers were tested after the ship arrived Sunday carrying frozen seafood. He said the captain failed to properly inform port authorities that three crewmembers had high fever. The people being tested included cargo handlers, customs officials, repair workers and interpreters who made contact with the infected crewmembers. South Korea reported 46 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 30 linked to international arrivals. The country has been struggling to stem a resurgence of the virus in the Seoul metropolitan area.

— China reported 22 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, including 13 in Beijing, a day after a city government spokesperson said containment measures had slowed the momentum of an outbreak in the capital that has infected more than 200 people. Another nine cases were brought by Chinese travelers from outside the country, seven of them on board a flight from Saudi Arabia that arrived in Gansu province, according to a notice from the provincial government. While the situation in Beijing is headed in the right direction, “the prevention situation remains grave and complex,” city spokesperson Xu Hejian said. The Beijing outbreak took hold in a huge wholesale food market crowded with workers and buyers. Additional cases traced to the same outbreak have been found in neighboring Hebei province and nearby Tianjin city.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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