Asia Today: Beijing tells residents to stay put for holidays

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A visitor wearing a Santa Claus costume is stopped at the entrance as registered members of St. John in the Wilderness church, attend the Christmas mass in Dharmsala, India, Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. The church which was built in 1852, is currently closed to general visitors due to COVID-19 restrictions. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing has urged residents not to leave the city during the Lunar New Year holiday in February, implementing new restrictions after several coronavirus infections last week.

Two domestic cases were reported on Friday, a convenience store worker and a Hewlett Packard Enterprise employee. Another two asymptomatic cases were discovered in Beijing earlier in the week.

Beijing is conducting testing on a limited scale in the neighborhoods and workplaces where the cases were found.

To contain any new outbreaks, the Beijing government canceled big gatherings such as sports events and temple fairs. It says applications will be strictly reviewed for any major events. Venues such as cinemas, libraries and museums have to operate at 75% capacity, the government said.

It also called on companies not to arrange business trips outside the city and abroad.

Lunar New Year is Feb. 12.

Separately, officials in the northeastern port city of Dalian said Friday that they had tested over 4.75 million people for the coronavirus after 24 confirmed infections this month.

Authorities have shut schools and all public spaces in five neighborhood divisions in Dalian, and only essential workers can leave their compounds to go to work.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Tokyo has confirmed 949 new cases of the coronavirus, a record high for the Japanese capital, as the country struggles with an upsurge that is spreading nationwide. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government said Saturday that the additional cases bring the prefectural total to 55,851. Japan had 3,823 new cases Friday for a national total of 213,547, with 3,155 deaths, the health ministry said. Japan has not been able to slow the infections despite government requests for the people to avoid going out for dinner and parties before and during the holiday season. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has ordered bars to close early and urged residents to avoid nonessential outings. But many people have continued commuting on crowded trains and going out for dinner and drinks.

— South Korea has reported another 1,132 coronavirus cases as the resurgence worsened over the Christmas week, putting pressure on the government to enforce stricter social distancing controls. The figures on Saturday brought the country’s caseload to 55,902 with 793 deaths. Around 780 of the new cases were from the greater capital area, home to 26 million people, where health workers discovered a large cluster in a huge Seoul prison with more than 500 inmates and workers. Transmissions in recent weeks have also been tied to hospitals, nursing homes, churches, restaurants and army units. After months of complacency, government officials restored some distancing restrictions in recent weeks after easing them to the lowest tier in October and are now clamping down on private gatherings, shutting down ski resorts, restricting hotel occupancy and setting fines for restaurants if they accept large groups. The government will hold a meeting on Sunday to determine whether to elevate distancing controls to the highest “Tier-3,” which could possibly shutter hundreds of thousands of non-essential businesses. Officials have resisted such action for weeks, saying it could unleash further shock on an already weak economy.

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