Asia Today: Outbreak grows in Sydney’s beach suburbs

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A medical worker wearing protective gear takes a sample from a man at a coronavirus/COVID-19 testing site in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SYDNEY (AP) — The outbreak in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs has grown to 70 cases with an additional 30 in the last 24 hours, and authorities say they may never be able to trace the source.

While the numbers are rising, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sunday there hasn’t been evidence of massive seeding outside the northern beaches community. A new list of cases, however, shows the virus had spread to greater Sydney and other parts of the state.

The government has imposed a lockdown in the area until Wednesday. Residents will only be permitted to leave their homes for five basic reasons, including medical care, exercise, grocery shop, work or for compassionate care reasons.

State Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said that contact tracers are yet to locate patient zero, but an extensive investigation is underway.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Thousands of people lined up for coronavirus tests in a province near Bangkok on Sunday, as Thai authorities scrambled to contain an outbreak of the virus that has infected nearly 700 people. Triple lines of mainly migrant workers stretched for around 100 meters in one location alone, at Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province, as health officials in mobile units methodically took nasal swabs. There were three locations in total in the area. Nearby, razor wire and police guards blocked access to the Klang Koong, or Central Shrimp, seafood market — one of Thailand’s largest — and its associated housing, the epicenter of the new cluster. Thailand’s Disease Control Department said Sunday that they found 141 more cases linked to the market outbreak. On Saturday, the department reported 548 cases, Thailand’s biggest daily spike, sending shockwaves through a country that has seen only a small number of infections over the past several months due to strict border and quarantine controls.

— South Korea has recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for the fifth consecutive day, putting pressure on authorities to enforce the toughest distancing rules that would further hurt the economy. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says it’s found 1,097 additional cases over the past 24-hour period, the highest daily tally since the pandemic began. That puts the national caseload at 49,665, including 674 deaths. About 70% of the new cases come from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a viral resurgence. The pace of the spread has already met government conditions for raising social distancing rules to their highest level. But officials have been reluctant to move forward with the measure out of worries for the economy. The new step would ban a gathering of more than 10 people and shut hundreds of thousands of non-essential businesses.

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