Asia Today: Returnee from US is Vanuatu’s 1st virus case


Vanuatu has recorded its first case of the coronavirus after a citizen repatriated from the United States tested positive in quarantine

The Pacific nation had been among the last few countries to have avoided the virus altogether.

Health authorities say the 23-year-old man was asymptomatic when he returned on Nov. 4 and his infection was confirmed Tuesday after routine day 5 testing.

Authorities say they plan to keep everyone from the same flight in quarantine and to trace the man’s close contacts but don’t need to impose any broader measures in the nation of 300,000 people.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India’s capital has recorded a new peak of 7,830 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours as festivals and weddings attended by large crowds fuel a resurgence. Authorities targeted testing in shopping areas, workplaces and religious places with New Delhi’s tally continuing to be more than 7,000 daily this week after dropping to nearly 1,000 in September. India’s infections overall have held steady recently with 44,281 new cases reported Wednesday. The Health Ministry also reported 512 deaths, taking total fatalities to 127,571. Testing in India has generally remained opaque, with the government not sharing the total share of rapid tests that India has used to boost its testing levels in the past months. The rapid antigen tests can miss infections, while the RT-PCR molecular tests are more reliable.

— The number of South Koreans with jobs annually declined for the eighth straight month in October, a streak unseen since a 2009 financial crisis. Statistics Korea on Wednesday said the number of employed people in the country was measured at 27.09 million last month, 421,000 fewer than a year earlier, with fears of viral spread and global lockdowns decimating jobs in both domestic service industries and export-driven manufacturing sectors. “The (domestic) resurgence of COVID-19 since August and the prolonging of the virus crisis have expanded the job losses,” Statistics Korea official Chung Dong-myung during a briefing. The country added 146 new cases on Wednesday, its fourth straight day of over 100, bringing its caseload to 27,799, including 485 deaths.

— New Zealand’s central bank is making more monetary moves to counter the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The Reserve Bank says that from December, it will provide retail banks with lower funding costs, allowing them, in turn, to lower borrowing rates for companies and households. That’s in addition to a large asset-buying program already introduced by the central bank. The bank also announced Wednesday that it was keeping its benchmark interest rate at a record low 0.25% and was considering lowering it to zero or to a negative rate next year. But the bank also said it was considering reintroducing mortgage restrictions from next March due to concerns about an increase in house prices and high-risk lending to housing investors.


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