TOKYO (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic continued to drop in much of Asia on Saturday even as the outbreak surged in Latin America, as the world grappled with balancing the urge to restart economies with fears about health risks.
China, where the outbreak began late last year, reported no new confirmed cases for the first time. In South Korea, there were 23 fresh infections, mostly from the densely populated Seoul area where authorities shut down thousands of nightclubs, bars and karaoke rooms to stem transmissions.
The encouraging signs are likely to set off a much awaited thrust to get back to business as governments have been readying social-distancing measures to reopen economies.
In Japan, a group representing bar hostesses and other nightlife workers issued guidelines to protect employees as outfits reopen, telling them to wear masks, gargle every 30 minutes and disinfect karaoke microphones after each use.
The Bank of Japan, which recently announced measures to ensure easy lending in the world’s third largest economy, said in a joint statement with the government that both sides “will work together to bring the Japanese economy back again on the post-pandemic solid growth track.”
Japan’s new cases have dwindled lately to double-digit figures each day. Deaths related to the coronavirus are below 800 people.
South Korea had been reporting around 500 new cases a day in early March before using aggressive tracing and testing to stabilize its outbreak. More than 200 of the recent infections have been linked to clubgoers in Seoul as the country began easing restrictions.
In the U.S., some regions were opening more quickly than others. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the state’s stay-at-home order by slightly more than two additional weeks, through June 12, while keeping theaters, gyms and other places of public accommodation closed until at least then.
The Democratic governor also kept her coronavirus emergency declaration through June 19. Both the stay-at-home measure and state of emergency had been set to expire late next Thursday, though Whitmer said extensions were likely.
“While the data shows that we are making progress, we are not out of the woods yet. If we’re going to lower the chance of a second wave and continue to protect our neighbors and loved ones from the spread of this virus, we must continue to do our part by staying safer at home,” said Whitmer, whom President Donald Trump has pushed to reopen the state.
Michigan on Friday reported 5,158 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 complications, the fourth largest tally of any state. The daily death toll rose by 29 and the number of new confirmed cases in the state increased by 403, to nearly 54,000 since the pandemic started.
Nevada is preparing to reopen its shuttered casinos, including glitzy ones in Las Vegas. Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has set a tentative June 4 date, as Nevada continues to see decreasing cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations of COVID-19. Some restricti