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Asia-Pacific, Africa tighten curbs

China Daily | Updated: 2020-03-26 09:43
A passenger wears a mask, gloves, and a raincoat, as she queues to enter the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila, amid fears of coronavirus disease spreading in Philippines, March 18, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

NEW DELHI-Countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa are tightening their lockdown measures in order to slow down the pace of the rampant coronavirus.

India ordered its billion-plus population to stay inside for three weeks in a bid to arrest the pandemic as the number of confirmed cases rose to 562 on Wednesday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday evening a complete lockdown of the entire country for 21 days, requiring everything but essential services to be shuttered.

Normally bustling railway stations around the country were deserted and streets that just hours before were jumbled with honking cars were eerily silent with just a trickle of pedestrians.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law that authorizes him to exercise "standby powers" necessary to carry out urgent measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Christopher Go said early on Wednesday.

The law authorizes the president to expedite and streamline the accreditation of testing kits, facilitate prompt testing of suspected cases, provide emergency subsidies to the poor, and temporarily direct the operations of privately owned health facilities when necessary.

In Malaysia, the government decided on Wednesday to extend a two-week restriction of movement order to April 14 as the number of coronavirus cases continue to climb. The country reported 172 new cases, taking the total to 1,796, the highest in Southeast Asia.

In Iran, the ground force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, or IRGC, will launch a "biological defense" exercise and disinfection operations across the country on Wednesday to tackle the novel coronavirus outbreak.

All medical centers of the IRGC ground force, including field hospitals, will be used at full capacity during the exercise, IRGC ground force commander Mohammad Pakpour said.

The death toll in Iran surged to 2,077, while the total number of coronavirus infections rose to 27,017 after 2,206 news cases were reported on Wednesday.

Community transmission

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after 50 new cases were confirmed in the country.

The four-week lockdown was triggered by early evidence of community transmission of the virus, Ardern said, asking people to "act like you have COVID-19".

In Africa, the Chinese government on Tuesday donated more than 10,000 COVID-19 laboratory testing kits to the African Union in an effort to strengthen the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's response to the pandemic.

The shipment was the second batch from China to support the AU's efforts in helping its member countries' in their fight against the virus. So far, 43 of the continent's 54 countries have cases, with the total at 2,046, the Africa CDC said.

In South Africa, an unprecedented lockdown loomed in response to the coronavirus outbreak, with the country's 57 million people told to stay at home from Friday. Virus cases leapt again on Tuesday, to 554, the most of any country in Africa.

Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, while the national carrier announced it will suspend all its domestic flights.

The Democratic Republic of Congo declared on Tuesday a state of emergency and the closure of all the country's borders, except for trucks, ships and cargo planes carrying essential supplies.

Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story.

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