SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korean students began returning to classes Wednesday as the country counted 32 new coronavirus cases.
It was the first time in nine days that the daily increase was above 30. South Korea relaxed much of its social distancing rules in early May, but then saw a spike in new infections linked to nightclubs in Seoul.
Hundreds of thousands of high school seniors were allowed to return to classes under new rules: temperature checks before entering school and Drama Top masks at all times. Some schools installed plastic partitions at each desk.
The Education Ministry said lower-level students will go back in phases in coming weeks.
The new school year was supposed to start in early March, but was delayed several times. About 5.4 million students have been taking classes online.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
Senior students wait for a class to begin with plastic shields placed on their desks at Jeonmin High School in Daejeon, South Korea, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. South Korean students began returning to schools Wednesday as their country prepares for a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Kim Jun-beom/Yonhap via AP)
– FIVE CASES IN CHINA: China is continuing to combat a virus cluster in its northeastern province of Jilin, with four out of five new cases reported Wednesday in the region north of Beijing. Authorities believe the outbreak may have begun among a group of family members and friends who gathered for dining and drinking without social distancing. Just 87 people are still under treatment, while 375 others are under isolation and monitoring. China has recorded a total of 4,634 deaths from the virus among 82,965 cases.
– SINGAPORE’S PHASED REOPENING: Singapore, which has one of the highest infection rates in Asia, plans to exit a partial lockdown June 1 over three phases. Officials say businesses that do not pose a high risk of transmission can reopen June 2 but some retail shops, personal services and dining at restaurants will remain shut. Schools will reopen in phases and families can visit each other, but are limited to one visit a day and not more than two guests in a household. The city-state has reported 28,794 cases with 22 deaths. Most are linked to foreign workers who remain locked down in their crowded dormitories. The government said it expects infections to rise with the increased activity next month. If the transmission remains low and stable, and the infections among foreign workers under control, more activities will gradually resume including gyms, tuition centers and retail outlets. All restrictions will eventually be eased but with strict guidelines.
– MORE TRAINS FOR INDIAN MIGRANTS: In major relief for tens of thousands of migrant workers eager to return to their home villages, Indian Railways announced plans to double the number of special trains and add 200 new trains from June 1. The railway said it has transported more than 2.1 million laborers in over 1,600 trains in the past 19 days. Passengers are required to wear masks and undergo health screenings before boarding. The return home of a huge number of workers has raised fears that many could carry infections with them. The number of coronavirus cases in India has surged past 100,000 with nearly 4,000 deaths. India´s 2-month-old lockdown has been extended until the end of May.
– TAIWAN LEADER TAKES STOCK OF PANDEMIC: Taiwan´s president said the coronavirus pandemic has changed the global political and economic order, accelerated and expanded the reorganization of global supply chains, restructured the global economy, and changed the way we live and shop. In an address Wednesday on her inauguration to a second term, Tsai said such changes present both challenges and opportunities, particularly for Taiwan, which has received praise for its handling of the outbreak even while being excluded from the World Health Organization at the insistence of China. Beijing claims the self-governing democratic island as its own territory. With virus threats still looming, “only those who can end the pandemic within their borders, lay out a strategy for their country´s survival and development, and take advantage of opportunities in the complex world of tomorrow, will be able to set themselves apart on the international stage,” Tsai said. As an aging society, Taiwan needs to bolster disease prevention and treatment capabilities and link industries to make more breakthroughs in vaccine and new drug development, she said.
– UNDERGROUND CLINIC CLOSED IN PHILIPPINES: Philippine police raided a small clandestine hospital and a drugstore catering to Chinese citizens suspected of being infected with the coronavirus and arrested two Chinese administrators. Police said they found a Chinese patient in the seven-bed hospital at a residential villa at the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone northwest of Manila. “The Chinese patients who were brought there may still be walking around in public and can infect other people,” said police Brig. Gen. Rhoderick Armamento. The Philippines has reported nearly 13,000 coronavirus infections, including 837 deaths, among the highest in Southeast Asia.
– INDIA TO RESUME DOMESTIC FLIGHTS: India will resume some domestic flights starting Monday after a nearly two-month suspension under the country’s coronavirus lockdown. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a short tweet Wednesday that all airports and air carriers in the country are being told to be ready for operations. India eased the lockdown early this month, allowing the reopening of shops and factories. It is also running special trains to take millions of stranded migrant workers back to their villages from big cities and towns. However, schools, shopping malls, movie theaters and religious places remain closed. India has reported 106,750 virus cases with 3,303 deaths. It says it is now testing more than 100,000 people per day and has covered more than 2.5 million people across the country.
– SRI LANKAN COURTS MOVE TO VIDEO: A Sri Lankan court held hearings by video for the first time Wednesday. Defendants appeared from the prison where they were detained, the Justice Ministry said. It said the program will be implemented across the nation, which is under a coronavirus lockdown. The lockdown has been eased in much of the country, but a 24-hour curfew remains in two high-risk districts, including the capital, Colombo.
People wait in line to undergo the new coronavirus tests while keeping distance from each other at a makeshift clinic set up on a playground in Incheon, South Korea, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Yun Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP)
Journalists attend a news conference by Guo Weimin, spokesman for the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), in Beijing, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Thomas Peter/Pool Photo via AP)
Passengers wearing face masks stand in close proximity as they ride a canal boat during the evening rush hour in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. The Thai government continues to ease restrictions related to running businesses in the capital Bangkok that were imposed weeks ago to combat the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Indonesian youths walk past a banner that calls for people to always wear face mask as a precaution against the new coronavirus outbreak, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
Migrant workers and their family members board a bus transporting them to state borders from where they will be taken to their native places, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. The pandemic has exposed India’s deep economic divide as millions of migrant workers have left Indian cities with luggage bags perched on their heads and children in their arms, walking down highways in desperate attempts to reach the countryside. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
A man covers himself with a plastic sheet and walks in the rain ahead of Cyclone Amphan landfall, at Bhadrak district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. A strong cyclone blew heavy rains and strong winds into coastal India and Bangladesh on Wednesday after more than 2.6 million people were moved to shelters in a frantic evacuation made more challenging by coronavirus. (AP Photo)