By Jane Wardell
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Coronavirus cases in Asia rose to a quarter of a million on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, driven by outbreaks in Singapore, Pakistan and India, even as China, South Korea and Japan significantly slowed the spread of the disease.
The region where the COVID-19 pandemic started has fared better overall than North America and Europe since the first case was reported in Wuhan, China on Jan. 10.
It has taken Asia almost four months to reach the 250,000 infection milestone, a level that Spain alone is approaching just a little over two months since reporting its first case.
At 250,650, Asia now accounts for just 7% of global cases, compared with 40% for Europe and 34% for North America, although experts worry that unreported infections are masking the true extent of the pandemic.
Infection may cause only mild symptoms and not everyone with symptoms is tested, while most countries only record hospital deaths, meaning deaths in private homes and nursing homes have not yet been included.
The death toll in Asia has also slowed significantly in most countries and is now nearing 10,000 for the region as a whole, representing just 4% of global deaths. Europe accounts for 57% and North America for 29%.
By comparison, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and France have all recorded more than 25,000 deaths each. The United States leads the grim tally with 70,000 fatalities.
SOUTH KOREAN SUCCESS
Stringent lockdown measures in China and South Korea that lasted for weeks have been credited by officials with sharp decreases in the rate of new cases and deaths.
South Korea reported just three new cases over the past 24 hours, a turnaround from the peak of the national epidemic in late February when it reported 1,165 cases in a single day.
Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and
microbiologist at Canberra Hospital, said South Korea was currently the country with reliable data that has been most successful at stemming the spread of the virus.
“South Korea has kept new cases to low numbers without paralysing the economy,” Collignon said.
China has reported single digit or low double digit new cases for the past week, keeping cases at just under 83,000.
Japan, where the lockdown has been less severe than many other countries, has reported an average of around 200 cases per day over the past week for a current total of around 16,000.
At the other end of the spectrum, India has recorded over 46,000 cases and 1,500 confirmed deaths from the virus, with more than 2,000 new cases over recent days. India’s biggest cities have maintained tight restrictions despite the end of a nationwide lockdown on Sunday, amid concerns infections may be underreported in the country of 1.3 billion people.
In neighbouring Pakistan, daily detection of the virus has hit record highs over the past week as the country ramps up its testing efforts. Still, the government said 21,000 infections and nearly 500 deaths are well below projections and it plans to ease lockdown measures further.
Singapore has a total of 19,410 infections and continues to log 500-800 new cases a day, largely due to mass outbreaks in migrant worker dormitories, but has reported just 18 deaths. It began reopening its economy this week.
The nearby Oceana region, made up of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations, accounted for less than 1% of global cases.
Australia has recorded around 6,800 infections and 96 deaths, and New Zealand 1,137 cases and 20 fatalities. The pair began talks on Tuesday about creating a trans-Tasman “travel bubble” that would allow people to move between the two countries, while broader international travel remained banned.
(Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Alison Williams, Richard Pullin and Mark Heinrich)