Asia Today: Indian Parliament reopens with virus precautions

NEW DELHI (AP) — India reopened its Parliament after more than five months Monday, even as the country continues to report the most daily new infections of the coronavirus in the world and daily virus deaths remain above 1,000.

Lawmakers must wear masks and follow other sanitization protocols, sit on seats separated by transparent plastic sheets and keep their meetings limited. The Question Hour, when lawmakers ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries, will be not be allowed.

Opposition parties have protested the decision to do away with the Question Hour and are expected to grill the government over its handling of the pandemic, the nosediving economy and simmering tensions with China.

India’s Health Ministry reported a single-day spike of 92,071 confirmed coronavirus cases Monday and another 1,136 deaths. India has now reported more than 4.8 million infections and more than 79,700 deaths since the pandemic began.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:

— South Korea has reported its lowest daily virus tally in about a month as it began easing its tough social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the 109 new cases took the country’s total to 22,285 with 363 deaths. The daily increase has stayed in the 100s for 12 straight days, but Monday’s increase was the lowest since mid-August. The government on Sunday relaxed its physical distancing guidelines in the Seoul area, citing a downward trend in new infections and economic worries. The rules effective Monday allow customers to eat and drink inside franchise cafes and bakeries and indoor gyms and after-school academics can reopen. A ban on late-night dining at restaurants was also lifted. Distancing and masks are still required.

— An Australian health official has revealed that she has been under police guard because of death threats and growing public anger over pandemic border restrictions. Queensland state Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said Monday that she now traveled with a police escort because of the threats. The Queensland state government has been under mounting criticism for making travelers spend two weeks in hotel quarantine when they cross the state border from other parts of Australia. The restrictions have led to a number of high-profile incidents, including one last week in which a woman was not allowed out of quarantine to attend her father’s funeral.

— New Zealand will keep its virus restrictions in place for at least another week as the country continues to battle a small outbreak that began in Auckland last month. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country had taken a cautious approach to the virus from the beginning, which had helped save lives and allowed the economy to reopen in a sustained way. Ardern said New Zealand will continue its strategy of trying to eliminate the virus. Under the restrictions, everybody must wear masks on public transport and planes, and the sizes of most gatherings are limited to 10 in Auckland and 100 elsewhere. Health authorities announced one more case of the virus on Monday, bringing the number of active cases to 96.

— Authorities in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, are expanding quarantine facilities as new cases of the coronavirus have risen to more than 100 a day. Work will be completed this week at a football stadium that will serve as a temporary quarantine center for 200 people and will be expanded to house 200 more, the Myanmar Football Federation said. Yangon General Hospital said it is expanding its wards and setting up tents to accommodate 70 more people with coronavirus symptoms. Other hospitals are doing likewise. An upsurge in coronavirus cases that began in August in the western state of Rakhine has since spread to other parts of the country. Myanmar on Friday reimposed tough measures to control the spread of the disease, banning travel out of Yangon and grounding all domestic flights. Myanmar has reported 3,015 coronavirus cases.

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