Asia Today: Sri Lanka confirms 321 cases in factory cluster

Sri Lanka has confirmed a cluster of coronavirus cases in more than 300 garment factory workers, days after reporting its first community infection in two months

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka said Tuesday more than 300 garment factory workers are infected with the coronavirus, days after reporting the Indian Ocean nation’s first community infection in two months.

The outbreak in the suburbs of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo was identified despite the government saying it has successfully controlled the spreading of the virus.

Trying to contain the outbreak, the government imposed a curfew in two suburbs where the majority of patients live, closed schools and universities, and imposed restrictions on public transport.

The country has reported 3,471 patients with 13 deaths. Of the total patients, 3,259 have recovered.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India has registered 61,267 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, marking the lowest daily infections since Aug 25 and driving the country’s total virus caseload to nearly 6.7 million. The Health Ministry on Tuesday also reported 884 deaths in the past 24 hours. The death toll now stands at 103,569. India, the world’s second most-affected country, has been reporting the highest single-day caseload in the world for nearly 45 days. The last three weeks have seen a gradual decline in its daily reported infections.

— Philippine Airlines has called on its employees to apply for voluntary separation as part of a retrenchment plan that may affect up to 35% of its 7,000 workers. PAL said it resorted to furloughs and flexible working arrangements at the height of the pandemic to preserve jobs. But it is operating 15% of its normal flights and said collapsing demand and ongoing travel restrictions made retrenchment inevitable. The retrenchments would involve voluntary and mandatory steps to be carried out in the remaining months of the year, PAL said and assured employees of fair treatment. Among Asia’s oldest commercial airlines, PAL is among the largest Philippine companies reeling from COVID-19. The virus has infected nearly 325,000 Filipinos, the highest in Southeast Asia, and caused 5,840 deaths.

— South Korea has reported 75 new cases of the coronavirus as infections steadily rise in the greater capital area. The figures released Tuesday by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency brought the national caseload to 24,239, including 422 deaths. At least 36 troops have tested positive at an army unit in Pocheon, north of Seoul, while 14 other infections were tied to a hospital in nearby Euijeongbu. There’s concern that infections will grow in the coming weeks due to increased travel during the five-day Chuseok harvest holiday that ended Sunday.