TOP OF THE HOUR: —India announces easing some lockdown restrictions —China says no new deaths from virus for 10th straight day —South Korea reports only 10 new cases of virus and no new deaths NEW DELHI — India announces easing of a stringent lockdown for 1.3 billion people by allowing opening of neighborhood and standalone shops with restrictions such as 50% of workers with face masks and social distancing.
A home ministry statement issued late Friday says that shops in single and multi-brand malls would not be allowed to open anywhere in the country. The relaxation also would not be applicable in hundreds of hotspots and containment zones across the country. India has so far reported more than 24,500 positive new coronavirus cases and 775 deaths. The worst-hit states are Maharashtra with 6,817 positive cases, Gujarat with 3,815 cases, New Delhi 2,514 and Rajasthan 2,034 cases.
India imposed a lockdown for its 1.3 billion people on March 25 and it is due to end on May 3. Last week, the government allowed resumption of manufacturing and farming activities in rural areas as millions of daily wage-earners were left without work.
The Home Ministry said the rise in number of positive cases in India is linear, not exponential.
SEOUL, South Korea
South Korea has reported 10 fresh cases of the new coronavirus, the eighth day in a row its daily jump came below 20, as its outbreak slows amid tightened border controls and waning infections in the worst-hit city of Daegu.
The country also on Saturday reported no new deaths for the second straight day. The figures released from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 10,718 cases and 240 deaths.
While a slowing caseload has allowed South Korea to relax its social distancing guidelines over the past week, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun raised concern over possible transmissions by “quiet spreaders” and instructed officials to conduct antibody tests in Daegu and nearby towns to learn how widespread the coronavirus is.
Chung also called for stronger financial tools to ease the epidemic’s economic shock, which has caused severe cashflow problems for airlines while also hurting major exporters such as carmakers and shipbuilders.
The government is looking to create a 40 trillion won ($32 billion) fund through bonds issued by state-run banks to protect jobs in key industries, but the plan needs parliamentary approval.
South Korea’s economy shrank 1.4% during the first three months of the year, the worst contraction since late-2008, as the pandemic hit both domestic consumption and exports.
For the 10th straight day, China reported no new deaths from the coronavirus.
Twelve new cases were reported on Saturday, 11 of them brought from overseas and one local transmission in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang bordering on Russia, according to the National Health Commission.
Just 838 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 while another 1,000 people are undergoing isolation and monitoring for being either suspected cases or having tested positive for the virus while showing no symptoms.
China, widely believed to be the source of the global pandemic, has reported a total of 4,632 deaths among 82,816 cases.
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