Asia Today: New Zealand to begin lifting virus restrictions
WELLINGTON: All remaining virus restrictions will be lifted across much of New Zealand from late Monday with the exception of the largest city, Auckland, which will continue to have some restrictions for at least another 16 days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement Monday after meeting with top lawmakers. The nation of 5 million people reimposed some restrictions last month after the Auckland outbreak, which now appears to be under control.
Under the plan, maximum gathering sizes in Auckland will be increased from 10 to 100 on Wednesday and then caps removed two weeks after that.
"Auckland needs more time," Ardern told reporters in the city. "Whilst we have reasonable confidence we are on the right track, there is still a need in Auckland for that cautious approach."
Health authorities reported no new cases on Monday. The number of active COVID-19 cases is 62, with 33 of those from community spread and 29 among quarantined returning travellers.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— India recorded nearly 87,000 new cases in the past 24 hours. The Health Ministry also Monday reported 1,130 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total reported fatalities to 87,882. India now has over 5.4 million reported cases and the nation of 1.3 billion people is expected to become the pandemic's worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States. India has eased lockdown measures to try to overcome the severe economic impact. On Monday, the 17th-century white marble Taj Mahal reopens after a gap of six months for national and international tourists. Restrictions such as compulsory mask-wearing, thermal screening and physical distancing will be used.
— South Korea's daily virus tally has stayed below 100 for a second consecutive day, maintaining a slowing trend in fresh infections. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Monday the 70 new cases added in the past 24 hours took the country's total to 23,045 with 385 deaths. The drop to double digits on Sunday was the first in about 40 days. South Korea conducts fewer tests on weekends. But its recent virus resurgence has been on a downward trajectory amid strong social distancing rules since its daily tally surpassed 400 in late August.