Asia at a crossroads in fight against coronavirus as cases surge

SYDNEY: Countries across the Asia-Pacific region reported record new coronavirus numbers and fresh outbreaks on Monday, with Japan facing mounting pressure to reimpose a state of emergency and South Korea warning it was at a “critical crossroads”.

The resurgence of the virus in Asia comes as travel restrictions are gradually being eased in the region and it will dampen prospects for broader reopening that would boost the recovery underway in economies such as Japan.

New daily cases in Japan reached a record 1,722 on Saturday, with hot spots in the northern island of Hokkaido and the western prefectures of Hyogo and Osaka. In Tokyo, cases have neared 400 in recent days, levels not seen since early August.

Analysts expect rising infections to slow the recovery in the world’s third-biggest economy, which grew at the fastest pace on record in the third quarter.

But the new cases failed to dampen stock markets, which have been bolstered by news of a potentially successful vaccine from Pfizer Inc.

In South Korea, officials reported more than 200 new coronavirus cases for the third consecutive day on Monday, as the government considers tightening social distancing.

“We are at a critical crossroads where we might have to readjust distancing,” South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said.

“The current situation is taking a very dangerous turn considering the rising infections from daily lives and the unrelenting pace of the spread.” - Reuters