Japan and South Korea tighten borders as US faces up to 200,000 Covid-19 deaths

Japan and South Korea tighten borders as US faces up to 200,000 Covid-19 deaths

Japan and South Korea are poised to tighten restrictions on overseas visitors in renewed efforts to prevent “imported” cases of the coronavirus, as American authorities warned that the US could face 200,000 deaths.

Japan will expand its entry ban to include people travelling from the US, China, South Korea and most of Europe, local media reported on Monday. The measure will apply to foreign nationals who have been to any of the listed regions within 14 days of arriving in Japan.

Japanese citizens – irrespective of where they have travelled to – and foreigners who have travelled outside the banned areas will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and watch for symptoms of Covid-19, Kyodo news agency quoted sources as saying.

The government may also ban entry from, and travel to, some countries in south-east Asia and Africa, the Asahi newspaper said, citing a few government sources. Japan has already imposed an entry ban on arrivals from affected areas of China and South Korea, as well as more than 20 countries.

The US is now at the centre of the coronavirus pandemic. In a press briefing on Sunday, Donald Trump said it would be “a very good job” if the country could keep deaths to 100,000 after Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said the nation could see 200,000 deaths.

Trump extended social distancing rules until 30 April and said he hoped normality would return by 1 June. On Sunday New York state passed a grim milestone, recording its 1,000th death.

The US president also undermined his plea for unity by uttering falsehoods, verbally abusing reporters and implying health care workers were stealing masks, without providing evidence.

The huge rise in cases in the US, and Europe, also prompted South Korea to announce it would require all travellers from overseas to undergo two weeks of quarantine from Wednesday, Yonhap news agency said on Monday. Visitors who were unable to provide an address in the country would be told to stay at government-designated facilities at their own expense, it added.

Of the 105 new cases reported in the country on Saturday, 41 involved people arriving overseas: 23 from Europe, 14 from the Americas and four from unidentified Asian countries. The number of new cases announced on Sunday fell to 78, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Japan, Tokyo recorded its biggest daily increase in Covid-19 cases on Sunday, as authorities identified large infection clusters in and around the capital.

The additional 68 cases brings the city’s total to 430 – by far the highest among Japan’s 47 prefectures. The newly identified infections included 27 at a hospital where 96 people are now known to have been infected.

In addition, 88 cases have been found among staff and residents at a facility for people with intellectual disabilities in Chiba prefecture, east of the capital.

The outbreak has infected more than 1,800 people in Japan, with 55 deaths as of Sunday afternoon, excluding 712 cases and 10 deaths from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Yokohama last month.

The virus claimed its first high-profile victim there, with public broadcaster NHK reporting on Monday that Ken Shimura, a 70-year-old veteran comedian and TV personality, had died on Sunday after being hospitalised earlier this month. His death would “raise public awareness” of just how serious the virus was, Shigeru Ishiba, a veteran lawmaker in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters on Monday.

A recent rise in cases in Tokyo, including some with no known source of infection, has raised speculation that the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is considering declaring a three-week state of emergency from Wednesday – a measure that would enable the governors of affected prefectures to instruct residents not to leave their homes except to shop for food and to receive medical care.

In other developments around the world:

  • China reported a drop in new cases for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday, as Beijing seeks to stamp out the risk of a second wave of infections by shutting its borders to foreign travellers and cutting international flights.

  • Australia was preparing for new rules that including limiting both indoor and outdoor gatherings to two people only.

  • A senior WHO adviser appeared to hang up after being asked about Taiwan’s response to the pandemic and then did not answer further questions because they had “already talked about China”.

  • Argentina extended its quarantine until mid-April.

  • Indian doctors are being ostracised from communities and evicted from their homes over fears they may be carrying the virus.

  • The stricken Zaandam cruise liner and its sister ship will start crossing the Panama canal on Monday night. The number of people with flu-like-symptoms on a Covid-19 stricken cruise ship off the coast of Panama has risen by almost a third in two days, from 138 to 179.

  • The coronavirus pandemic could cause UK economic output to plunge by an unprecedented 15% in the second quarter of the year and unemployment to more than double, according to dire forecasts.

  • In the US, the singer-songwriter John Prine is critically ill and has been placed on a ventilator while being treated for Covid-19-type symptoms.

Published on: Mar 30, 2020 15:33:17

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