Asia Today: New Zealand has no new cases for 2nd day

New Zealand has reported no new cases of the coronavirus for the second day in a row and the fourth day in more than a week

New Zealand reported zero new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, the second day in a row without any new cases and the fourth day since early last week.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said it was encouraging news as the country prepares to ease many of its lockdown restrictions from midnight. Most businesses, including malls, retail stores and sit-down restaurants, will be able to reopen. Social distancing rules will remain in place and gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

“The sense of anticipation is both palpable and understandable,” Bloomfield said.

The lifting of restrictions will coincide with the release of the government’s annual budget on Thursday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country faced the most challenging economic conditions since the Great Depression because of the virus.

“New Zealand is about to enter a very tough winter,” she said. “But every winter eventually is followed by spring, and if we make the right choices we can get New Zealanders back to work and our economy moving quickly again.”

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— MORE CASES IN SOUTH KOREA: South Korea reported 26 additional cases of the coronavirus amid a new spike in infections linked to nightclubs in Seoul. Figures released Wednesday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the national tally to 10,962 with 259 deaths. It says 22 of the 26 new cases were locally infected patients while the rest four came from overseas. South Korea’s caseload has been on a slight yet steady upward trajectory since last week, with most cases linked to nightlife establishments in Seoul.

— 7 NEW CASES IN CHINA: China on Wednesday announced seven new cases of the coronavirus, six of them in the northeastern province of Jilin where authorities have raised alert levels and suspended rail connections to one county where a cluster of unknown origin has been growing. China has reported a total of 4,633 deaths among 82,926 cases. On Tuesday, Chinese media reported the government is preparing to test all Wuhan residents, the central industrial city of 11 million people where the virus was first detected late last year.