Asia Today: India's coronavirus cases jump by another 96K

NEW DELHI: India's coronavirus cases jumped by another 96,424 infections in the past 24 hours, showing little sign of levelling.

The Health Ministry on Friday raised the nation's total past 5.21 million, 0.37% of its nearly 1.4 billion people. It said 1,174 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 84,372 fatalities. Experts say India's death toll may be a significant undercount.

India is expected to have the highest national total of confirmed cases within weeks, surpassing the United States, where more than 6.67 million people have been infected.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday on Thursday made a fresh appeal to people to wear masks and maintain social distance as his government chalked out plans to handle big congregations expected during a major Hindu festival season beginning next month.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said with a recovery rate of more than 78%, India has only 1 million active coronavirus cases in the country.

Nearly 60% of the active cases are concentrated in five of 28 Indian states, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

The worst-hit western Maharashtra state accounted for 474 of 1,174 of fatalities reported in the country in the past 24 hours.

Authorities extended until the end of September a ban on four or more people assembling at one place in Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital. More than 178,000 people have been infected by coronavirus in Mumbai with 8,320 deaths so far.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— New Zealand reported no new cases of the coronavirus on Friday for the first time in more than five weeks as hopes rise that an outbreak discovered in Auckland last month has been stamped out. Friday also marked the fourth consecutive day without any cases of community transmission, with all recent cases being found among quarantined passengers returning from abroad. Health authorities expect to continue finding such cases at the border. Authorities have still not pinpointed the origin of the August outbreak, which they believe was imported. New Zealand has reported a total of just over 1,800 cases and 25 deaths.

— An Australian state government will open the state border to the national capital after being criticized for refusing to allow a Canberra resident to attend her father's funeral because of pandemic restrictions. Health Minister Steven Miles said Canberra travelers would no longer have to spend time in Queensland hotel quarantine from Sept. 25. They'll have to fly rather than drive to Queensland, however, because Canberra is surrounded by New South Wales state, which remains subject to border restrictions.

— South Korea's daily coronavirus tally has stayed in the 100s for a 16th consecutive day as authorities struggle to contain small-scale, sporadic local infections. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that the 126 cased added in the past 24 hours took the country's total to 22,783 with 377 deaths. South Korea's caseload has been slowing down recently, prompting authorities to relax elevated social distancing rules in the Seoul area. But the country's daily jump remains in triple digits as cluster transmissions linked to churches, schools and elsewhere and some untraceable cases have been continuously detected.

— China on Friday reported numbers of imported coronavirus cases surged to 32 over the previous 24 hours. Thirteen of those cases were reported in the northern province of Shaanxi, whose capital Xi'an is a major industrial center, while the eastern financial and business hub of Shanghai reported 12. China, where the virus was first reported late last year, has gone more than a month without reporting any cases of local transmission but remains highly vigilant to cases brought from outside. It has suspended issuing new visas and anyone arriving from abroad is required to undergo two weeks quarantine. Schools, businesses, transport and public services have largely resumed normal operations under social distancing, mask wearing and location tracking requirements.