Asia Today: More Australians in class, Tokyo measure to ease

Students in two more Australian states have returned to school full-time as numbers of virus patients in hospitals across the country fall

Students in two more Australian states returned to school full-time Monday as numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the country fall.

New South Wales and Queensland states joined the less populous Western Australia and South Australia states and the Northern Territory in resuming face-to-face learning instead of studying from home online.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said students and teachers had to observe one key message: Stay home if sick.

“We’re not out of the woods yet. We have to take each day as it comes, each week as it comes and we keep our fingers crossed that Queenslanders will continue to flatten that curve,” Palaszczuk told reporters.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said early indications were that the rate of children missing school on Monday was slightly higher than usual. That might reflect the message to keep children at home if they are unwell.

Australia’s remaining jurisdictions — Victoria and Tasmania states and the Australian Capital Territory — plan to send students back to school in stages through early June.

While New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, and the third most populous state, Queensland, agree on reopening schools, they differ on reopening their common border.

New South Wales has recorded 50 of Australia’s 102 COVID-19 deaths and wants all state borders reopened. Queensland has recorded only six deaths and has no plans to open its borders.

South Australia and the Northern Territory also have no active cases and have closed borders. The Australian Capital Territory has not had a case in three weeks and has left its borders open like the worst-effected states, New South Wales and Victoria.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— JAPAN READY TO EASE EMERGENCY: Japan is set to remove a coronavirus state of emergency from Tokyo and four other remaining prefectures, entirely ending the measure that began nearly eight weeks ago. “It appears the measure is no longer needed in all of the prefectures,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a virus task force meeting. If experts approve the plan, it would be announced later Monday. Japan’s emergency was softer than the lockdowns imposed in many countries and requested rather than required shutting businesses and staying home. But those measures as well as mask-wearing and social distancing have slowed infections and eased pressure on Japan’s medical systems. Japan has 16,580 confirmed cases and 830 deaths, according to the health ministry.

— CHINA HAS 11 NEW CASES: China reported 11 new infections, all of them brought from outside the country. Ten of them were on a flight arriving in the vast Inner Mongolia region, according to the National Health Commission. China has recorded a total of 4,634 deaths among 82,985 cases of the virus that was first detected in the central Chinese industrial city of Wuhan late last year. The latest figures come as China holds the annual session of its ceremonial parliament, part of efforts to show the country is returning to normal and shaking off the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.

— MORE SEOUL INFECTIONS: South Korea has reported 16 fresh infections as official scramble to stem transmissions with more children returning to school this week. The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday brought national totals to 11,206 cases and 267 deaths. Thirteen of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area where more than 200 infections have been linked to nightclubs and other entertainment facilities that briefly reopened. A phased reopening of schools began with high-school seniors last week and will add more students Wednesday and in early June. “It’s important that every member of our nation cooperates so that local transmissions don’t reach schools, and infections of students don’t spread to local communities,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said.