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Asia Today: South Korea capital announces new virus controls

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A man wearing a face mask walks past a banner showing precautions against the coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL – Authorities in the South Korean capital on Monday announced a tightening of social distancing regulations, including shutting nightclubs, limiting service hours at restaurants and reducing public transportation.

The measures going into effect on Tuesday also include a ban on public rallies or demonstrations of more than 10 people. Restaurants can provide only take out and delivery after 9 p.m., and public transportation will be limited after 10 p.m.

Acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jung-hyup told reporters one-third of city employees will work from home. He recommend churches convert to online worship services only.

Earlier on Monday, the country reported 271 new cases of the coronavirus.

South Korea has saw the virus spread faster after authorities eased social distancing restrictions to the lowest level in October amid concerns about a weak economy.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said tightening guidelines was inevitable as a failure to slow transmissions now could “break the dam” in anti-virus efforts and result in a surge in infections nationwide that may overwhelm hospital systems.

“We need to reduce people-to-people contact,” she said during a briefing Monday, pleading with people to cancel year-end meetings and other gatherings.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Chinese authorities are testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns and shutting down schools after multiple locally transmitted coronavirus cases were discovered in three cities across the country last week. As temperatures drop, large-scale measures are being enacted in the cities of Tianjin, Shanghai and Manzhouli. Many experts and government officials have warned that the chance of the virus spreading will be greater during the cold weather. On Monday, the National Health Commission reported two new locally transmitted cases in Shanghai over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to seven since Friday.

— Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed half a million as the government of the world’s fourth most populous nation scrambles to procure vaccines to help it win the fight against the pandemic. The Health Ministry reported 4,442 new cases on Monday to bring the country’s total to 502,110, the highest toll in Southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s more than 9.1 million confirmed cases. The ministry said that the death toll from the virus is 16,002, and that it has been adding 3,000-5,000 daily cases since mid-September. President Joko Widodo said his administration is working on a mass vaccination program for the vast archipelago nation, home to more than 270 million people.

— Sri Lanka has reopened some of the thousands of schools that have been closed for more than a month due to a surge of the coronavirus. Schools will remain closed in Colombo and it’s suburbs as the number of cases is still climbing in those parts. According to the government’s decision, schools were re-opened only for students in grades 6 to 13. The Education Ministry said there are 10,165 state-run schools in the country and arrangements were made to open 5,100 schools on Monday. Sri Lanka closed schools last month when two new clusters emerged in Colombo and it’s suburbs. The confirmed cases from the two clusters had grown to 16,639 by Monday.

— India has registered 44,059 another new cases of the coronavirus and 511 deaths in the past 24 hours. New Delhi on Monday added 5,879 new cases 111 deaths and its rate of positive testing is more than three times the national average, authorities said. India has reported more than 9 million cases since the pandemic began, second behind the United States.

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