Asia Today: Australian outbreak attributed to sick workers

Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has posted another daily record 532 new COVID-19 cases

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state on Monday posted a new daily record of 532 new COVID-19 cases, and the government leader warned that a lockdown in the city of Melbourne would continue while infected people continued to go to work.

Melbourne is almost half way through a six-week lockdown aimed at curbing community spread of coronavirus. Mask-wearing in Australia’s second-largest city became compulsory last week.

The new cases and six deaths reported on Monday surpasses a previous record of 484 new infections reported on Wednesday last week.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the biggest driver of the new infections was people continuing to go to work after showing symptoms.

“This is what is driving these numbers up and the lockdown will not end until people stop going to work with symptoms and instead go and get tested,” Andrews said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for patience in Victoria.

“There has been significant community transmission in Victoria. That will take some time to get on top of,” Morrison said.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Vietnam has postponed its hosting of Asia’s largest security forum, which includes North Korea, and an annual meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers by a month to September due to the coronavirus pandemic. Two Southeast Asian diplomats said Monday that Vietnam, which leads the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year, hopes to hold face to face meetings in mid-September instead of doing them by online video due to travel restrictions if the annual gatherings were to be held as originally scheduled later this week. The 10-nation bloc hosts the ASEAN Regional Forum, which brings together its top diplomats with counterparts from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, India, the two Koreas and other Asia Pacific countries to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and other security issues. Most of about 1,300 ASEAN meetings this year have so far been shifted online due to the coronavirus pandemic, including an annual summit of ASEAN leaders last month. More sensitive talks, including secretive negotiations between China and ASEAN member states for a so-called “code of conduct” in the disputed South China Sea, have been delayed indefinitely, said the two diplomats, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the matter publicly.

— China on Monday reported 61 new cases of coronavirus, spread between its northeastern and northwestern regions. The Xinjiang region in the northwest reported 41 new cases, while Liaoning and Jilin provinces in the northeast saw a combined 16. Another four cases were brought by Chinese travelers from outside the country. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 83,891 cases of COVID-19.

— South Korea reported 25 new cases, bringing its national caseload to 14,175 infections and 299 deaths. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 16 of the new cases were tied to people arriving from abroad. The country in past days have reported dozens of cases among crew members of a Russia-flagged cargo ship docked in Busan and hundreds of South Korean construction workers airlifted from virus-ravaged Iraq. Eight of the nine local transmissions were from the Seoul metropolitan area.