Countries across the Asia Pacific have continued to report big rises in Covid-19 infections as tens of millions in the US began life under increasingly strict lockdown conditions.
Australia and Japan’s infections rose past 1,000 on Saturday and Thailand reported its biggest daily jump of 89, amid concerns that returning citizens were a major source of infection. Singapore recorded its first two fatalities.
Australian authorities temporarily closed Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach on Saturday, after beachgoers ignored the 500-person limit for outdoor gatherings. Many thousands had mingled at Bondi on Friday when temperatures soared into the mid 30s, and another large crowd gathered on Saturday. The authorities said lifesavers would now close beaches if they believe more than 500 people are present.
“This is not something we’re doing because we’re the fun police, this is not something that the government is doing because we want to make life easy, this is about saving lives,” said David Elliott, the NSW health minister.
Authorities are also concerned about cruise ships that have come in to dock in Australia, after four people on one ship tested positive for Covid-19. Returning citizens continued to be a major source of infection in the country, particularly Australians returning from the United States.
Elsewhere, other nations raised concern about so-called imported cases of Covid-19. South Korea, which has been praised for its mass testing regime, recorded another 147 cases, the second highest number in a week. Yonhap news agency said the jump had prompted concerns over a rise in infections in the capital, Seoul, and also among people arriving from overseas.
In response, South Korea said it would require all arrivals from European countries to get tested for the virus and self-isolate for two weeks, from Sunday. Temporary shelters have been set up to accommodate up to 1,000 European travellers while they wait for their test results, Yonhap said.
China continued to report only imported cases, with no local transmission in the 24 hours to Saturday. All 41 new cases reported by the National Health Commission were brought in from overseas. Nearly 250 cases have been imported so far. There were seven deaths reported on Saturday, all in Hubei province.
In the United States, tens of millions began living under stricter quarantine measures. Illinois and Connecticut on Friday afternoon joined New York in telling all residents to stay home outside of certain permissible activities and essential work services.
Non-essential businesses in those states account for about 31% of the US economy.
Donald Trump said there were no current plans to order a national lockdown. The White House also announced Friday that a member of vice-president Mike Pence’s staff had tested positive for the virus and that contact tracing was under way, but that neither Pence nor Trump had close contact with the individual.
Elsewhere, countries battled the spread of the virus:
Canada’s recorded cases passed 1,000.
Jordan began an indefinite, nationwide curfew, to prevent people from moving except for emergencies. Anyone violating the curfew, can be jailed up to a year, the army said.
The Philippines’ recorded its 19th death from the coronavirus, with confirmed cases rising to 262. More than half the country is in strict home quarantine.
The UK closed pubs, cafes, gyms and restaurants from Friday and and announced an unprecedented wage-support scheme to try to prevent a tsunami of job losses.
Italy announced 627 more coronavirus deaths on Friday, the biggest day-to-day increase in the country’s four-week epidemic. The total number of deaths was 4,032, with the number of infections reaching 47,021.
Spain recorded its biggest single-day death toll of 235, taking the total past 1,000.
Germans were warned they would be confined to their homes on Monday if they didn’t behave responsibly over the weekend.
The Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Friday took the rare step of closing its borders with several neighbouring states because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Health Organization boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, issued a stark warning to young people, saying they were “not invincible”.
“Today I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks – or even kill you,” Tedro said.
“Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”