Asia steps up COVID-19 efforts as second wave of infections strikes

HONG KONG: From Australia's Bondi Beach to the streets of New Delhi, authorities across Asia have ramped up efforts to stem the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus amid fears of a second wave of infections in places where outbreaks had appeared under control.

Tighter travel restrictions were imposed in several countries as the number of cases in the region soared past 95,000 – a third of the world's infections, an AFP tally shows.

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Outside China – where the virus was first detected in December and infected more than 80,000 people – South Korea is the hardest-hit country in Asia with more than 8,500 cases.

READ: South Korea's new daily COVID-19 cases fall to 98

While the number of infections in China has been falling for weeks, other countries are seeing the toll gather pace from spread of the highly contagious virus.

Cases rose by roughly a third in Thailand overnight to nearly 600, fueling scepticism about claims in neighbouring Myanmar and Laos of zero infections.

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READ: Thailand reports its largest daily increase in COVID-19 cases

Three doctors treating virus patients in Indonesia died, taking the country's death toll to 48 with 514 confirmed infections.

Most cases are in Jakarta, where businesses have been ordered closed for two weeks.

READ: Indonesia confirms 64 new coronavirus cases, 10 new deaths

After shutting its borders to foreigners and non-residents, Australia told citizens to also cancel domestic travel plans, with the number of cases topping 1,300.

Bondi Beach and several other popular swimming spots were closed after crowds of sunbathers defied a ban on large outdoor gatherings.

READ: COVID-19: Australian states to consider 'draconian measures' to enforce social distancing

Pubs, casinos, cinemas and places of worship will be shuttered for up to six months starting on Monday.

INDIA CURFEW

Pakistan suspended international flights in a bid to prevent the virus spreading.

Officials in Sindh – the country's second-most populous province – ordered a lockdown effective midnight.

Pakistan has reported 5,650 suspected cases, 646 confirmed infections, and three deaths from the virus.

In nearby Bangladesh, however, only 27 cases have been reported, with two deaths.

Millions of people in India were in lockdown on Sunday as the government tested the country's ability to fight the pandemic.

READ: India goes under 14-hour lockdown to curb COVID-19 spread

Officials said every private sector worker in New Delhi must work from home this week unless they are providing an essential service. Most public transport will also be halted.

Billionaire Anand Mahindra, whose vast Mahindra Group business empire includes cars and real estate, said his manufacturing facilities would try to repurpose to make ventilators.

Testing has expanded in the country of 1.3 billion people amid concerns that the 360 reported cases, including seven deaths, vastly understates the true scale of the crisis.

People took to their balconies in major cities after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to thank medical workers and emergency personnel by clapping or banging pots and pans for five minutes at 5.00pm on Sunday.

The World Health Organization has called for "aggressive" action in Southeast Asia, fearing that a major outbreak could cripple the region's often decrepit health care systems.

SECOND WAVE

Authorities are now dealing with a second wave of infections in places where outbreaks appeared to have been brought under control as people return from abroad.

Singapore is banning all short-term visiRead More – Source