BANGKOK >> Singapore has reported its biggest daily jump in new coronavirus infections, most of them linked to foreign workers living in crowded dormitories.
Foreigners account for over a third of Singapore’s workforce, many of them people from poorer Asian countries working in construction, shipping and maintenance jobs that support Singapore’s trade-reliant economy.
Over 200,000 Asian migrant workers live in 43 registered dormitories that house up to 20 men per room, with shared toilets, cooking and other facilities.
The 386 newly confirmed cases raise Singapore’s tally to 2,918. Health authorities also reported a ninth death in a statement late Monday.
The tiny city state of nearly 6 million people has shut down nonessential businesses and schools until May 4 in a partial lockdown to try to halt the spread of the new coronavirus. Tens of thousands of foreign workers are quarantined in their dorms and some were moved elsewhere to reduce crowding.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli wrote on Facebook late Monday that the remaining three weeks of the partial lockdown will be “a critical window that will determine if we can successfully flatten the curve, prevent large-scale community spread, and save our loved ones.”
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— ASEAN MEETS ON VIDEO: Southeast Asian leaders linked up by video to plot their moves against the virus that threatens their economies and binds millions of people in their homes under lockdowns. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in an opening speech that containment efforts were working but warned against complacency.
— INDIA’S LOCKDOWN EXTENDED: The world’s largest lockdown has been extended to May 3. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said restrictions may be eased after one week to help daily wage earners and those working in agriculture. In his address to the nation, Modi said the lockdown will be eased only in areas where the virus situation doesn’t deteriorate.
— U.S. SAILOR DIES: Four infected crew members from the USS Theodore Roosevelt are hospitalized in Guam, after the Navy said a U.S. sailor from the aircraft carrier died of the disease. They are among 585 crew members who have tested positive; the remainder are quarantined at hotels in the U.S. territory or attending to the ship’s nuclear reactors and other sensitive systems.
— JAPAN’S CASE RISE: Japan’s health ministry reported 390 new cases of infection for a domestic total of 7,645. The country was put under a state of emergency last week, but many people were still seen queuing up at grocery stores and crowding shopping arcades in parts of downtown Tokyo to stock up on necessities.
— NO TIME TO LET UP: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand appears to be over the worst of its coronavirus outbreak but it is no time to let up on strict lockdown measures. The country recorded 17 new cases, bringing the total to 1,366. There were also four new deaths, the worst day yet on that measure, bringing the total to nine dead. New Zealand lawmakers will decide next week what will happen after an initial four-week lockdown ends on April 22.
— IMF CANCELS DEBT PAYMENTS: The International Monetary Fund approved $500 million to cancel six months of debt payments for 25 impoverished countries so they can tackle the pandemic. Afghanistan, Nepal, Solomon Islands and Tajikistan are among the countries that will see immediate debt relief.
— DECLINES IN SOUTH KOREA, CHINA: South Korea reported 27 fresh cases as infections continued to wane in the worst-hit city of Daegu and nearby towns. South Korea’s totals are 10,564 infections and 222 virus-related deaths. China reported 89 new virus cases, 86 of them among travelers arriving from abroad, but no new deaths. It has confirmed 3,341 deaths out of 82,249 official cases of infections.