Asia Today: India to survey 29 million New Delhi residents

NEW DELHI (AP) — India says it will carry out a massive survey for the coronavirus targeting the entire population in New Delhi of 29 million.

Officials will go to each household to record every resident’s health details, and administer a virus test to those who show or report symptoms.

The survey will be completed by July 6, according to the government of New Delhi, the worst-hit city with 70,390 confirmed cases.

Police will enforce physical distancing and prevent the mixing of the population inside more than 200 containment zones in the capital, where large clusters of cases have been confirmed. Surveillance cameras or drone monitoring will also be used.

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India on Thursday registered another record high of 16,922 new cases, taking the total to 473,105. The Health Ministry reported 418 more deaths, taking fatalities to 14,894.

New Delhi’s government has projected that cases in the capital area alone could expand to more than half a million by late July, and is considering taking over luxury hotels and stadiums to convert into field hospitals.

The Health Ministry said it has ramped up testing to more than 200,000 per day across the country, raising the total number of tests so far to nearly 7.3 million.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Indonesia surpassed 50,000 on Thursday as the government allows businesses to reopen amid increasing economic pressure. Skepticism remains over the ability of the government to conduct enough tests to determine the true spread of the virus in the Southeast Asian nation of more than 270 million people living on thousands of islands. A government task force said the coronavirus is confirmed to have infected 50,187 people and killed at least 2,620, the highest number of cases and fatalities in the region, up from just two confirmed cases in early March. Testing remains a major limitation of Indonesia’s fight against the virus. The country has tested fewer than 430,000 people, according to government data. That’s far from the World Health Organization’s recommendation of testing 1% to 1.5% of the country’s population, said Laura Navika Yamani, an epidemiology expert at Airlangga University.

— China reported 19 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday amid mass testing in Beijing, where a recent outbreak appears to have been brought under control. Of the new cases, 13 were reported in Beijing and one in the neighboring province of Hebei. Five others were brought by Chinese travelers from overseas. No new deaths were reported. Case numbers both nationally and in Beijing were up by single digits from Wednesday but there was no sign of any further spread. This month’s outbreak in Beijing saw 249 people infected, most of them with links to the city’s biggest wholesale market, leading authorities to lock down some communities and cancel classes. Since then, 3 million test samples have been taken from 2.43 million people in the city.

— South Korea has reported 28 additional cases of the coronavirus, as the country is struggling to suppress a resurgence of the virus, mostly around the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area. That brings the country’s total to 12,563 cases with 282 deaths. South Korea has seen an uptick in new infections since it eased strict social distancing rules. But the daily increases haven’t reached the level of hundreds of cases that were reported between late February and early March. Most of the recent cases have been associated with nightlife establishments, church gatherings, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers.

— Australian health workers plan to go door-to-door to test more than 100,000 residents in a coronavirus hot spot in suburban Melbourne that is threatening to undo the nation’s success in battling the virus. Victoria state on Thursday reported 33 new cases, the highest number in more than two months. Premier Daniel Andrews said the testing aims to collect samples from half of all residents in 10 suburbs. He said the goal is to test 10,000 residents each day over 10 days. The tests are free and Andrews urged residents to agree to take them as a civic duty. More than 1,000 military personnel are deploying to Victoria to help with the operation, while other states will help process the test results. Australia has reported more than 7,500 confirmed cases of the virus, including 104 deaths.

— The Philippine government will seek to extend a law granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to deal with the pandemic as the threat of future outbreaks remains. Congress granted Duterte extra powers in March that include the authority to realign budgets to provide aid to millions of poor families and make emergency medical purchases. The law expired this week. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte plans to call a special session of Congress to extend his emergency powers.

— Nepal is increasing quarantine facilities and testing at border points to prepare for the expected return of thousands of workers from neighboring India, where coronavirus cases are surging, a senior official said Thursday. Nepal has reported 11,162 cases and just 26 deaths in a population of 29 million. It was among the first countries in South Asia to report a case, but a lockdown imposed in March has helped control the outbreak. Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel told The Associated Press that coronavirus cases are expected to increase as workers return home from India, where millions of Nepalese are believed to be employed. The flow of workers is expected to accelerate as virus restrictions are eased.

— Sri Lanka has opened a new laboratory capable of conducting 500 coronavirus tests per day, Previously, Sri Lanka only had the capacity to conduct 300 tests a day. The lab was built with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank. Sri Lanka has conducted 100,000 tests so far and health authorities say the disease is under control, with new patients belonging to two clusters — navy sailors and those came from abroad. The country has reported 2,007 cases and 11 deaths.

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