World

Asia reaches crossroads in fight against coronavirus as cases spike

SYDNEY: Countries across Asiareported record new coronavirus numbers yesterday, with Japan facing mounting pressure to reimpose a state of emergency and South Korea warning it was at a "critical crossroads".

The resurgence of the virus in Asia comes as travel restrictions are gradually being eased in the region, and it will dampen prospects for broader reopening that would boost recovery in economies such as Japan.

New daily cases in Japan reached a record 1,722 on Saturday, with hot spots in the northern island of Hokkaido and the western prefectures of Hyogo and Osaka. In Tokyo, cases have neared 400 in recent days, levels not seen since early August.

Analysts expect rising infections to slow the recovery in the world's third-biggest economy, which grew at the fastest pace on record in the third quarter.

Keen to maintain the economic momentum, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that the situation did not warrant the reimposition of a state of emergency or a halt to the government's campaign to encourage domestic tourism.

Japan first adopted a state of emergency in April and lifted it the following month. Since then, Tokyo has eased restrictions to boost the economy and prepare for next year's postponed Olympic Games.

In South Korea, officials reported more than 200 new cases for the third consecutive day yesterday, as the government considers tightening social distancing.

"We are at a critical crossroads where we might have to readjust distancing," South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said.

"The current situation is taking a very dangerous turn considering the rising infections from daily lives and the unrelenting pace of the spread."

Indonesia, which has the highest number of cases in South-east Asia, has reported new spikes after signs the infection rates were plateauing in recent weeks. It announced a record daily jump of 5,444 infections on Friday. Yesterday it reported 3,535 new cases, taking the total number to 470,648. There were 85 fatalities, taking the death toll to 15,296.

Malaysia yesterday recorded a four-figure increase for the fourth successive day. There were 1,103 infections, taking the total to 48,520, and four deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 313. - REUTERS, THE STAR

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