India and S. Korea hit unhappy highs

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India's Covid-19 infections cross 3m mark while S. Korea sees big daily spike

MUMBAI/SEOUL: India and South Korea set unhappy coronavirus benchmarks yesterday with the former hitting more than 3 million infections and the latter recording its highest daily spike since early March.

India crossed the 3 million mark with 69,239 new cases yesterday, even as the country opened up various sectors from a lockdown that brought businesses to a halt and hurt economic growth.

With the fifth straight day of more than 60,000 new cases, India's tally stands at 3.04 million, federal health ministry data showed, behind only the United States and Brazil. Deaths in India from Covid-19 rose by 912 to 56,706.

India yesterday issued guidelines to open up its media production industry with norms for social distancing, crowd management and sanitisation.

"The general principles behind the SOP (standard operating procedure) will help create a safe working environment for cast and crew in the industry," Mr Prakash Javadekar, India's union minister for information and broadcasting said in a tweet.

Top producers, distributors and actors from Bollywood, the movie industry in India's financial capital of Mumbai, had said in May it would take at least two years for them to recover financially from the pandemic, putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs.

Film production and cinemas had been shut nationwide after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a more than two-month long lockdown in March.

While India has been slowly opening up some industries with specific regulations, containment zones - areas identified as most affected by the virus - still remain under lockdown.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, the authorities warned the country was "on the brink of a nationwide pandemic" and tightened social distancing rules after there were 397 new infections yesterday.

It is the highest daily number of cases since early March.

The majority of the new infections were in the greater Seoul region - home to half the country's 51 million people, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

The authorities warned of tougher social distancing rules, which may include closing schools and businesses, if the number of new cases continues to grow at a fast pace after South Korea had largely brought its earlier outbreak under control.

"The situation is very grave and serious as we are on the brink of a nationwide pandemic," KCDC chief Jung Eun-kyeong told reporters.

"Please stay home if possible," Dr Jung said, adding the number of infections has not peaked yet.

Virus curbs were tightened in the Seoul region last week and were further expanded to the rest of the country yesterday.

The measures include restrictions on large gatherings such as religious services and the closing of nightclubs, karaoke bars and cyber cafes. All beaches have also been closed.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said yesterday that face masks would be mandatory for indoor and crowded outdoor areas in the capital from midnight.

South Korea has reported a total of 17,399 coronavirus infections with 309 deaths. - REUTERS, AFP