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Asia Today: No masks on red carpet as Taiwan logs few cases

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan wrapped up an annual film festival with an awards ceremony Saturday night, as the island holds more public events after keeping its coronavirus outbreak to a few hundred cases.

Actors and others lined up for photo shoots with no social distancing, and participants didn’t wear masks in historic Zhongshan Hall in Taipei. Taiwan, with a population of about 23 million people, has had 451 confirmed cases and seven deaths.

A baseball game in the city of Taichung on Saturday drew more than 10,000 fans for the first time this season, the official Central News Agency said. Health authorities said last month that fans would be allowed to sit in alternate seats and no longer would have to wear masks, except when leaving their seats. Authorities have been gradually allowing larger crowds since play began in April with no fans.

The horror film “Detention,” set during martial law in Taiwan in the 1960s, was the biggest winner at the Taipei Film Festival, taking six awards including the Grand Prize and Best Actress for 22-year-old Gingle Wang.

Chang Jung-chi, the Best Director winner for “We Are Champions,” said the virus outbreak had forced him to slow down his work. “This comes to me like a friend patting my shoulder and saying, ‘Hang in there,’ ” he said.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Australia's worst-hit Victoria state reported 273 new cases on Sunday, the sixth straight day of triple-digit increases. State Premier Daniel Andrews said a man in his 70s died overnight, bringing Australia’s death toll to 108, including 24 in Victoria, which currently has 1,484 active cases. A sudden surge in COVID-19 saw Victoria report a record 288 infections on Friday and 216 Saturday. Australia’s most populous state New South Wales reported five new cases on Saturday. Andrews warned Victorians “this is a dangerous time.” The major city of Melbourne is in virtual lockdown and Andrews said “we simply have no choice but to acknowledge the reality that we face and to do what must be done. That is to follow (the) rules, to only go out when you need to and to only go out for purposes that are lawful.” Meanwhile, eight health care workers at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital have tested positive for the virus. Hospital authorities said five of the cases are not linked and are believed to have been acquired through the community. Three workers deemed close contacts also tested positive.

— India’s coronavirus caseload was nearing 850,000 with a record surge of 28,637 in the past 24 hours, prompting authorities to announce a weeklong lockdown in the key southern technology hub of Bangalore. The new confirmed cases took the national total to 849,553. The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported another 551 deaths for a total of 22,674. India has overtaken Russia in the number of cases and is currently behind the United States and Brazil, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Southern Karnataka state, whose IT hub Bangalore is home to Microsoft, Apple and Amazon offices, extended Sunday lockdowns to one week beginning Tuesday. New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Pune are among the key Indian cities witnessing a surge in infections. Several states also have announced stringent lockdowns in high-risk areas.

— South Korea reported 44 new cases, maintaining an uptick in new infections in the greater Seoul area and central cities. The additional figures released Sunday took the country’s total to 13,417 with 289 deaths. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 21 of the newly reported cases were local transmissions, all of them recorded either in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area or two central cities. The agency says the 23 other cases were linked to international arrivals. South Korea has been reporting roughly 30-60 cases every day since it eased social distancing rules in early May.

— Chinese health authorities on Sunday reported seven new coronavirus cases that they said came from abroad and said there were no additional domestic infections. Four of the confirmed cases reported in the 24 hours through midnight Saturday were in Tianjin, east of Beijing, two in Shanghai and one in the southeastern province of Zhejiang, the National Health Commission reported. That raised China’s total number of confirmed cases to 83,594, with 4,634 deaths, according to the NHC.

— The premier of Australia’s most populous state has called on staff and patrons of a popular Sydney pub to self-isolate for 14 days and test for COVID-19 after a staff member was confirmed on Sunday to be infected. More than 1,000 people visited the venue in the week between July 3 and 10 when the 18-year-old staff member was present. Six cases are now linked to the hotel — three who visited on July 3 and three contacts of one of those cases. Health officials fear the pub will become the source of a new outbreak in New South Wales, which had mostly suppressed community transmission of the coronavirus, recording only five new cases on Saturday. New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said her state was “literally at a crossroads” in its effort to control spread. “We have literally the next few weeks to continue on the strong path we’ve been on, otherwise we will go down the path of Victoria,” Berejiklian said. She was referring to Victoria state, which recorded 273 new infections Sunday, its sixth-straight day of triple-digit increases.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

The Associated Press





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