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Asia Today: Australian state reports record virus increase

Last Updated Aug 5, 2020 at 12:30 am EDT

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s hot spot Victoria state announced a new record 725 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths on Wednesday, while businesses in Melbourne city prepared to draw down their shutters as new pandemic restrictions are enforced.

The new 24-hour record was marginally higher than the 723 cases and 13 deaths reported last Thursday.

From late Wednesday, many non-essential businesses including most detail retailers, hair-dressers and gyms in Australia’s second-largest city will be closed for six weeks. People employed in essential jobs will have to carry passes under Australia’s toughest-ever lockdown restrictions.

Like Melbourne hospitals, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced that non-emergency surgeries will be restricted in hospitals in regional Victoria, where infections rates are lower.

“It will be very challenging, but it is necessary to drive these numbers down,” Andrews said of the new restrictions.

He added that the “notion of more than 700 cases is not sustainable.”

In other developments in Asia and the Pacific:

— Hong Hong has reported 80 new virus cases and four additional deaths. Hong Kong saw cases spike in a new wave of infections, but new daily cases have now fallen back into the double digits. Authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city have ordered masks be worn in all public places, slapped restrictions on indoor dining, banned many activities and increased testing. Hong Kong has recorded a total of 3,669 cases and 42 deaths from the virus.

— China reported 27 new virus cases on the mainland Wednesday. Of those 22 were in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose capital Urumqi has been the centre of China’s latest outbreak. Measures to contain the spread, including locking down some communities and limiting public transport, appear to have been effective and reported case numbers have gradually fallen. The remaining five cases were brought from overseas by Chinese travellers, the National Health Administration said. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 84,491 cases since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year. A total of 810 people are being treated in hospital for the disease.

— A governor in Japan is drawing skeptical criticism after he touted a gargling product as effective against the coronavirus, an assertion that, despite its dubiousness, emptied some store shelves of the medicine. Shares of Shionogi & Co. and Meiji Holdings Co., which make Isojin, soared in Tokyo trading Tuesday after Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura made the comments. Yoshimura referred to a study carried out by the Osaka regional government on a sample of just 41 people. Experts said such a study was inconclusive. Shionogi and Meiji shares were already coming down Wednesday, as subsequent Japanese media reports debunked Yoshimura’s claim.

The Associated Press