The coronavirus pandemic continued to ease in much of Asia on Saturday as new cases emerged in Latin America and the world was trying to strike a balance between the urgency to revive the economy and fear of health risks.
China did not report any contagion on Saturday for the first time since the start of the pandemic that erupted there late last year. In South Korea, there were 23 new cases, mostly in the densely populated metropolitan area of the capital Seoul, where authorities closed thousands of nightclubs, bars, and karaoke rooms to curb broadcasts.
These encouraging signs are expected to fuel an expected return to business normality, while governments have been preparing social distancing measures to reopen their economies.
In Japan, a group representing bar bartenders and nightlife workers presented their guidelines to protect workers by reopening, such as wearing a mask, gargling every 30 minutes, and disinfecting karaoke microphones after every use.
The Bank of Japan, which recently announced measures to facilitate lending to the world’s third largest economy, said in a joint statement with the government that “we will work together to return the Japanese economy to a solid growth trajectory after the pandemic.”
The number of new daily cases in the country fell to double digits, and deaths related to the virus are below 800.
In early March, South Korea reported around 500 new cases daily until it began using an aggressive tracking and testing policy to stabilize the outbreak. More than 200 of the latest infections were linked to people who attended nightclubs in the Seoul metropolitan area when the nation began easing restrictions.
On the other hand, the United Nations announced 75 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in its 13 peacekeeping missions, which have a total of 110,000 troops, including soldiers, police and others.
The two largest countries in Latin America – Mexico and Brazil – beat their infected and dead marks almost daily this week, fueling criticism of their presidents, who have eased quarantines in an attempt to limit economic damage.
Brazil confirmed a total of more than 330,000 cases, surpassing Russia to position itself as the second nation with the highest number of affected, only behind the United States, which has 96,000 deaths and 1.6 million infections, according to a count by the University Johns Hopkins. Brazil also registered more than 21,000 deaths, although experts believe the number is higher.
According to experts, the increase in cases in Latin America showed the limits of government action in a region where millions of people work in the informal economy and many police officers are weak or corrupt and unable to apply the restrictions. The infections also increased and saturated intensive care units in Peru, Chile and Ecuador, which had received praise for imposing early and strict quarantines.
Journalists from The Associated Press around the world contributed to this report.