WELLINGTON, New Zealand >> Vanuatu has recorded its first case of the coronavirus after a citizen who had been repatriated from the United States tested positive while in quarantine.
The Pacific nation had been among the last few countries to have avoided the virus altogether.
Health authorities say the 23-year-old man was asymptomatic when he returned on Nov. 4 and his infection was confirmed Tuesday after routine day 5 testing.
Authorities say they plan to keep everyone from the same flight in quarantine and to trace the man’s close contacts but don’t need to impose any broader measures in the nation of 300,000 people.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— A leading Chinese health official has expressed confidence the country may avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections this winter if it maintains current precautions. Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told leading financial magazine Caixin that China “will very likely prevent” a new round of infections given present trends. Feng described the present state of the outbreak in China as “very safe overall.” China has largely eliminated new local outbreaks by requiring masks indoors and on public transport, requiring two-week quarantines for those entering the country and banning some foreign travelers entirely. Authorities have quickly moved to address local outbreaks by tracing potential contacts, carrying out widespread testing and sometimes locking down entire communities. While China was accused of suppressing information about the outbreak at its initial stage, its recent data have not been seriously challenged and local officials have moved swiftly to disclose new cases. That has allowed the world’s second-largest economy to largely recover, partly with the help of the country’s thriving home delivery services.
— The number of South Koreans with jobs annually declined for the eighth straight month in October, a streak unseen since a 2009 financial crisis. Statistics Korea on Wednesday said the number of employed people in the country was measured at 27.09 million last month, 421,000 fewer than a year earlier, with fears of viral spread and global lockdowns decimating jobs in both domestic service industries and export-driven manufacturing sectors. “The (domestic) resurgence of COVID-19 since August and the prolonging of the virus crisis have expanded the job losses,” Statistics Korea official Chung Dong-myung during a briefing. The country added 146 new cases on Wednesday, its fourth straight day of over 100, bringing its caseload to 27,799, including 485 deaths.
— New Zealand’s central bank is making more monetary moves to counter the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The Reserve Bank says that from December, it will provide retail banks with lower funding costs, allowing them, in turn, to lower borrowing rates for companies and households. That’s in addition to a large asset-buying program already introduced by the central bank. The bank also announced Wednesday that it was keeping its benchmark interest rate at a record low 0.25% and was considering lowering it to zero or to a negative rate next year. But the bank also said it was considering reintroducing mortgage restrictions from next March due to concerns about an increase in house prices and high-risk lending to housing investors.