NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Tuesday reported more than 18,000 new coronavirus cases and 400 deaths after an Indian company said it would start clinical trials of a potential vaccine.
Bharat Biotech said it had received government permission to go ahead with the first two phases of clinical trials after initial studies demonstrated safety. Multiple vaccine trials are in a preclinical stage in India, and several other candidates are being tested around the world.
The new infections confirmed in the past 24 hours raised India's cases to 566,840, the fourth-highest in the world. The addition of 418 deaths raised its fatalities to more 16,000, according to India’s health ministry. Experts say the true toll of the disease around the world is much higher.
India's outbreaks were initially concentrated in the country’s largest cities, like the capital, New Delhi, and financial hub Mumbai. But worrying increases are occurring in smaller cities with fragile health systems, like Jaipur in the northern state of Rajasthan or Patna in the eastern state of Bihar.
In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:
— South Korea’s professional baseball league will require fans to wear masks, sit at least a seat apart and prohibit them from eating food in the stands when spectators are allowed back into stadiums. The Korea Baseball Organization said teams will be initially allowed to sell 30% of seats. Fans must buy tickets with credit cards to help trace contacts of any virus carriers. South Korea’s moves to reallow fans in sporting events come despite a virus resurgence. South Korea reported 43 new cases Tuesday but has resisted stronger social distancing measures to avoid hurting the economy. Statistics Korea said the country’s industrial output declined for the 5th straight month in May.
— China confirmed 19 new cases as those infected in the capital Beijing’s June outbreak started being released from hospital. Of the new cases, seven were reported in Beijing and one in the eastern financial center of Shanghai, while 11 others were brought by Chinese travelers from outside the country, according to the National Health Commission. The first patient from Beijing's latest outbreak to be discharged, a 56-year-old man surnamed He, said he had stopped at the Xinfadi market’s beef and mutton section for about 20 minutes on June 3. The market had been the center of the new outbreak that has infected more than 230 people. “When I went to the market, I occasionally pulled down my mask as it was hot that day. Maybe that is how I contracted the virus,” Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying.
— Australia’s second-largest city will lock down dozens of suburbs for a month in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday 233 positive tests for COVID-19 in Melbourne since Thursday was unacceptably high. Andrews announced 36 suburbs in which residents will be required to stay at home from Wednesday night until July 29 except for four permitted reasons. Residents will face fines if they leave home for reasons other than to give or receive care, to exercise, to buy essentials or to go to work or school. People who live outside those suburbs will only be allowed to enter them for the same reasons. “These are extraordinary steps, these are not things we’ve had to do in the past, but such is the nature of this virus, it is so wildly infectious,” Andrews said. He also announced there would be no international flights allowed into Melbourne for the next two weeks. The crackdown comes as other Australian states lift pandemic restrictions because they have little or no community transmission of the virus. Australia has recorded 7,734 COVID-19 cases, including 104 deaths.
— Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced a new set of criteria Tuesday for monitoring coronavirus infections in the Japanese capital that doesn't include any specific thresholds for cautionary steps. She said there will be no more alerts or business closure requests because society now is living with the virus. Tokyo’s new cases have risen to around 50 a day, the highest level since early May, when an alert was issued. However, Koike said the previous criteria are outdated because infections are under control and Tokyo’s medical system has stabilized. “Instead of relying on specific numbers to switch on and off (caution levels), we will look at the whole picture and make a comprehensive decision,” she said. The new system is based on seven factors: the number of new cases, details of untraceable cases, number of emergency calls and consultations, capacity of emergency hospitals, ratio of patients per test takers and the state of the medical system. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who met with Koike earlier Tuesday to discuss Tokyo’s current situation, said the new cases are mostly linked to nightlife districts and expanded testing and there is no need to reinstate restrictions.