India reported its biggest single-day spike in virus cases Friday ahead of a resumption of domestic flights after a two-month halt.
The 6,088 new cases reported in the last 24 hours took its total to 118,447. Deaths rose to 3,583 while more than 48,000 people have recovered, according to the health ministry.
Maharashtra continues to be the worst-affected state in India with more than 41,000 cases. The number of fatalities in the state rose to 1,454, the highest in the country.
India has the 11th most confirmed cases in the world. It has eased its nationwide lockdown to restart economic activities and gave states more power to set the next phase of reopenings. Some domestic flights will resume on Monday.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— NEW SOUTH KOREA CASES: South Korea reported 20 new cases as authorities scrambled to stem transmissions as schools gradually reopen. The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought the national totals to 11,142 cases and 264 deaths. South Korea has managed to stabilize infections with aggressive tracing and testing. Its schools began reopening Wednesday, though dozens in Incheon, near Seoul, sent students back home after some tested positive. More students are to return to schools next week. Meanwhile, health authorities are reviewing the possible use of Apple and Google’s new smartphone technology that automatically notifies users when they have come close to infected people. But officials say it isn’t clear whether the Bluetooth-based apps would meaningfully boost the country’s technology-driven fight against COVID-19, in which health workers have aggressively used cellphone data, credit-card records and surveillance videos to trace and isolate potential virus carriers.
— CHINA CONGRESS OPENS: China reported four new confirmed cases, including two in the northeastern province of Jilin that has seen China’s latest outbreak. Another 372 people are in isolation and undergoing monitoring for being suspected cases or for testing positive without showing symptoms; 82 people remain in hospitalized. The new cases come as China opens the delayed session of its ceremonial parliament, the National People’s Congress, which is being held largely behind closed doors in Beijing to avoid cross-infections as China seeks to avoid a second wave of cases. The country has reported 4,634 deaths among 82,971 cases.
— LI TOUTS PROGRESS: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang says China has made solid progress in fighting the coronavirus outbreak but must “redouble our efforts to minimize the losses … and fulfill the targets and tasks for economic and social development this year.” In his address Friday to the annual session of China’s ceremonial parliament, Li called the outbreak the “most challenging public health emergency China has encountered since the founding of the People’s Republic” in 1949. He said China wishes to strengthen cooperation with other countries in countering the virus, and “uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core and an international order based on international law.” The U.S. in particular has been highly critical of China’s handling of the initial outbreak of the virus in the city of Wuhan and suspended funding for the U.N.’s World Health Organization partly over what it says is a pro-China bias.
— RESTAURANT RULES EASING: Leaders of Australia’s most populous state are increasing the maximum number of customers that restaurants can seat from 10 to 50 from June 1. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said bookings will be limited to parties of 10 people when customer numbers are increased for restaurants, cafes and pubs. Restrictions vary across Australia’s eight states and territories, but New South Wales is set to allow the largest restaurant customer numbers. New South Wales and neighboring Victoria have no restrictions on crossing state borders and have Australia’s highest numbers of COVID-19 infections. All the other states restrict their borders. So does the Northern Territory, but the Australian Capital Territory does not. Berejiklian wants the borders opened to further stimulate her state’s economy, but leaders of neighboring Queensland state say that won’t happen while New South Wales continues to record new infections. Australian has recorded 7,081 cases of COVID-19 and 100 patients have died.
— CRUISE SHIPS BANNED: Australia has extended its ban on cruise ship visits for a further three months until Sept. 17 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Australian Border Force on Friday announced the extension of the ban, which began March 27 when 28 cruise ships were in Australian waters. Any cruise ship capable of carrying more than 100 passengers is prohibited from operating in the country. Outbreaks linked to cruise ships and aged care homes have proven the most deadly in Australia.
— MALAYSIAN LEADER TESTED FOR VIRUS: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was tested for the coronavirus on Friday after an official at a meeting he chaired on Wednesday was diagnosed with the disease. The prime minister’s office said Muhyiddin, a cancer survivor, tested negative for the virus but would observe a 14-day quarantine. It said all other officials at the meeting have also been ordered to be tested and to quarantine themselves. It said strict health measures and social distancing are practiced in all meetings at the prime minister’s office. Malaysia has reported 7,137 infections and 115 deaths. Most businesses have reopened since a virus lockdown in mid-March but mass gatherings and inter-state travel are still banned.
— JOURNALIST SENTENCED: A Myanmar court has sentenced a journalist to two years in prison for erroneously reporting a death from the coronavirus. The lawyer for Zaw Ye Htet, an editor with the Karen state-based news agency Dae Pyaw, said his client was charged with publishing a report that could cause fear or alarm among the public that may induce unrest. The lawyer, Myint Thu Zar Maw, said Friday his client was arrested on the same day he published the incorrect report. Zaw Ye Htet’s wife, Phyu Phyu Win, said by phone that her husband posted a correction online, but was arrested anyway. Rights groups charge that the government uses the broadly worded law to stifle criticism and political dissent.