World

Australia, HK tighten coronavirus curbs, Tokyo tracks new cluster

HK sets social distancing rules, Japan traces 800 audience members after theatre infection and Australian states tighten borders

SYDNEY/TOKYO : Australian states tightened borders and restricted pub visits yesterday, while Disney prepared to close its Hong Kong theme park and Japan stepped up tracing as a jump in coronavirus cases across Asia fanned fears of a second wave of infections.

South Australia cancelled plans to reopen its border to New South Wales next Monday, while Queensland introduced a mandatory two-week quarantine for people who have visited two areas in Sydney's western suburbs.

New South Wales, which has seen several dozen cases linked to the outbreak in Victoria, said pubs will be limited to 300 people, responding to an outbreak centred at a large hotel in south-western Sydney.

"Indoor activity, where people aren't seated is a huge health risk. It increases the chance of transmission," state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

Australia's second largest city, Melbourne, is in the second week of a six-week lockdown.

Hong Kong, which suffered remarkably few cases in the first wave of the pandemic, is imposing strict social distancing measures, the most stringent yet in the Asian financial hub.

It reported 48 new coronavirus cases yesterday, including 40 that officials said were transmitted locally. Tuesday's toll was slightly lower than Monday's 52 new cases but remained broadly in line with a recent sharp increase in the city.

Since late January, Hong Kong has reported 1,522 cases, and media reported an eighth death on Monday.

"The recent emergence of local cases of unknown infection source indicates the existence of sustained silent transmission in the community," the Hong Kong government said.

Disney said it is temporarily closing its Hong Kong Disneyland theme park from today.

In Tokyo, health officials appealed for more than 800 theatregoers to get tested for the coronavirus after a production starring Japanese boy-band members was found to be the source of at least 20 cases.

The Tokyo government said it was focusing on a 190-seat theatre in Shinjuku, a busy entertainment area and home to one of Asia's biggest red-light districts which has been the centre of a recent spike in infections.

The city reported 143 new cases yesterday. Overall, Japan has reported around 23,000 infections and nearly 1,000 related deaths.

Worldwide, the number of coronavirus infections hit 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, climbing by a million in just five days.

The pandemic has now killed more than half a million people in six-and-a-half months.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the pandemic would worsen if countries failed to adhere to strict precautions.

"Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction; the virus remains public enemy number one," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing on Monday.

WORLD