Asia Today: India's cases up as WHO cautions vs vaccine plan

NEW DELHI (AP) — India has reported another record 24-hour jump in coronavirus cases as the World Health Organization cautioned against the country’s plans to release a vaccine by August.

The Health Ministry added 24,850 confirmed cases on Sunday, bringing the nationwide total to 673,165, making India the fourth hardest-hit in the world behind the U.S., Brazil and Russia.

India’s death toll rose to 19,268.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, the agency leading the country’s COVID-19 response, said last week that it had set Aug. 15 -- India’s independence day -- as a target for developing a coronavirus vaccine and asking clinical trial investigators to enroll participants by July 7.

The WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said in an interview Saturday with India’s online newspaper The Wire that more realistically, some phase 1 results would be available by August “if all goes according to plan.”

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— The hard-hit Australian state of Victoria has recorded 74 new coronavirus cases after announcing a record 108 new infections on Saturday. That increase resulted in state Premier Daniel Andrews announcing a lockdown of nine inner-city public housing blocks containing 3,000 people, where 27 cases have been detected. Police are guarding every entrance of the housing estates and residents are not allowed to leave their homes for any reason. Andrews said the residents will have their rent waived for the next two weeks and will receive one-off hardship payments of between 750 and 1,500 Australian dollars ($520 to $1,040). The government said it would arrange the delivery of food and medical supplies to all homes. Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone called for a temporary halt to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country after the alarming surge in Victoria.

— South Korea has recorded 60-plus COVID-19 cases for a third consecutive day as the virus spread beyond the greater Seoul area. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday it has confirmed 61 additional cases, bringing national totals to 13,091. The death toll remains the same at 283. The agency says 43 of the newly reported cases were locally infected while the other 18 were linked to international arrivals. It says 41 of the 43 cases were either from the Seoul metropolitan area or two central cities, Gwangju and Daejeon. South Korea has been grappling with an uptick in new infections after it eased social distancing rules in early May. South Korea recorded 63 new cases on both Saturday and Friday.

— China on Sunday reported eight new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period, as a recent outbreak in Beijing appeared to have largely run its course. The Chinese capital had two new cases, the seventh straight day of single-digit increase. Authorities have confirmed 334 infections during the outbreak, which was detected about three weeks ago and is the largest in the country since March. No one has died, though a few were earlier reported in critical condition. “The situation ... keeps improving and is completely controllable,” Beijing government spokesperson Xu Hejian said at a news conference Saturday. The six cases outside Beijing were people arriving from abroad. Three were in Gansu province in the country’s northwest. China has reported 83,553 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths since the pandemic began. Its case count does not include people who test positive but show no symptoms.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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