Asia Today: South Korean cases drop after new rules in Seoul

South Korea reported its first drop below 200 new coronavirus cases in more than two weeks

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea reported its first drop below 200 new coronavirus cases in more than two weeks on Thursday, but the country’s strained hospitals were treating more seriously ill patients after the prolonged recent surge in infections.

Thursday’s increase of 195 new cases, the first daily increase below 200 in 17 days, indicated the country was beginning to see the effects of stringent social distancing restrictions recently imposed in the greater capital area to slow the viral resurgence.

However, the number of patients in serious or critical condition with active COVID-19 increased to 154, compared to 14 on Aug. 14 when the country began what’s now a 21-day run in triple-digit daily jumps in infections. The country has added more than 5,800 newly ill people to its caseload during the streak, raising fears about overwhelmed hospitals.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 149 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million population, where health workers have struggled to trace transmissions.

Since Sunday, restaurants in the Seoul area have been required to provide only deliveries and takeout meals after 9 p.m., while fitness centers and after-school academies were ordered to close to slow the spread of the virus.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Australia’s hot spot Victoria state on Thursday recorded its second consecutive day of increased COVID-19 cases. The state health department said there had been 113 new infections and 15 deaths in the latest 24-hour period. There were 90 new infections and six deaths recorded on Wednesday. There were only 70 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the lowest tally since June.

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