Asia Today: Virus arrives in once-clear Marshall Islands
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Marshall Islands has reported its first cases of the coronavirus after two people who flew from Hawaii to a U.S. military base tested positive.
The small Pacific nation had been among the last places in the world to have no reported cases of the virus.
The Office of the Chief Secretary said in a statement that a 35-year-old woman and a 46-year-old man had tested positive this week after flying directly from Honolulu to the base on Kwajalein Atoll.
The office said the two cases weren’t connected, that both people remained in quarantine, and that there was no chance of community transmission.
The office asked people to remain calm and said all businesses and government operations would continue as normal.
Home to about 78,000 people, the Marshall Islands maintains close military and civilian ties with the U.S. under a compact of free association.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— India’s confirmed coronavirus toll crossed 8 million with daily cases dipping to the lowest level this week. The Health Ministry reported 49,881 new infections in the past 24 hours. The ministry on Thursday also reported 517 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 120,527. Life in India is edging back to pre-virus levels with shops, businesses, subway trains and movie theaters reopening. But health experts warn a major Hindu festival season and the approach of winter could lead to more localized outbreaks.
— Long lines formed at supermarkets and pharmacies in Sri Lanka’s capital and surrounding areas after the authorities announced they will impose a three-day curfew amid a virus surge. The curfew will be imposed from midnight Thursday until Monday morning in Western province, the key economic and administrative region of the country. Two new outbreak clusters emerged early this month, centered around a garment factory and fish market. By Thursday, infections traced to the two clusters had reached 5,730 — more than half of the cases the country has seen since the pandemic began.
— Officials in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang believe they have contained the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak. All 23 newly active cases there were people who previously had tested positive but had not yet developed symptoms, according to the National Health Commission. Thursday was the second straight day with testing not showing a spread of the virus. The development appears to show that new infections have been curbed, said Wang Xijiang, deputy director of the center for disease prevention and control in Xinjiang’s Kashgar prefecture. More than 4.7 million people in Kashgar have been tested.
— Australia has sought to prevent new coronavirus cases from reaching its shores by banning most of its residents from leaving in the first place. The ban creates a heartbreaking burden on its multicultural population, around half of whom were born overseas or have an immigrant parent. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has held up Australia’s travel ban as an example to the world of how to avoid severe subsequent coronavirus waves spread by citizens who are infected while traveling on vacation. But with Australia becoming one of the most successful countries in containing the spread of the virus, some are questioning how long the ban can be justified.
— Taiwan has hit 200 days without any domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19, highlighting the island’s continued success at keeping the virus under control even as cases surge in other parts of the world. Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control last reported a domestic case on April 12. CDC officials noted Thursday’s milestone and thanked the public, urging them to continue to wear masks and to wash their hands often. Since the pandemic began, Taiwan has recorded 553 cases of COVID-19, and just seven deaths. While it has stopped domestic transmission, it continues to record new cases in people arriving from abroad.