Asia Today: Virus sets off new school closures in Australia

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Felise Kaufusi of the Storm, center, celebrates with players after scoring a try during the Round 6 NRL match between Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm, in Sydney, Friday, June 19, 2020. A match in Australia’s National Rugby League between the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors due to be played on Friday has been moved from Melbourne to Sydney because of a spike in coronavirus cases in the state of Victoria. (Craig Golding/AAP Image via AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Victoria state has recorded 17 new cases of COVID-19, resulting in the closing of two primary schools in Melbourne. State Premier Daniel Andrews said there would be “significant community transmission” among the new cases.

Andrews said one of the new cases was from a person in hotel quarantine, two were from known outbreaks, three were from routine testing and 11 were under investigation.

The two schools have been closed for thorough cleaning after students from both schools tested positive for the coronavirus.

The suburbs where the schools are located are two of six local government hot spots in recent weeks.

Last weekend, Andrews said large family gatherings had been the catalyst for the virus taking off again in some areas after lockdown rules were eased.

“We have seen many families, large families, that have gathered in numbers beyond the rules,” he said. “I know and understand that all Victorians want this to be over but we simply can’t pretend the virus is gone.”

In the national capital Canberra, Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia’s borders will remain closed for “a very significant” amount of time.

Hunt says coronavirus infection rates were accelerating around the world.

“For the time being we are an island sanctuary,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

There have been 102 deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia and more than 7,400 infected.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— China reported 22 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, including 13 in Beijing, a day after a city government spokesperson said containment measures had slowed the momentum of an outbreak in the capital that has infected more than 200 people. Another nine cases were brought by Chinese travelers from outside the country, seven of them on board a flight from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia that arrived in the western city of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, according to a notice from the provincial government. While the situation in Beijing is headed in the right direction, “the prevention situation remains grave and complex,” city spokesperson Xu Hejian said at a Monday news conference. The Beijing outbreak took hold in a huge wholesale food market crowded with workers and buyers. Additional cases traced to the same outbreak have been found in neighboring Hebei province and nearby Tianjin city.

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