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Asia Today: China keeping Beijing petition offices closed

AP  |  Beijing 

The central government petition offices in Beijing, where people come from across China to register complaints, will remain closed for the time being as a virus-control measure, state media reported Monday.

As its cases have declined for weeks, China has moved to restart schools and reopen businesses and industries to revive the world's second-largest economy.

However, some government offices that tend to attract large numbers of people in restricted spaces have largely remained closed.

Central government petition offices are a particular concern because complainants often travel considerable distances to Beijing where they might live for weeks or months in substandard accommodations awaiting a response.

Local governments often send officers to intercept petitions and forcefully return them home.

The official Xinhua Agency noted complaints could still be submitted online.

China on Monday reported seven new coronavirus cases, four of them Chinese returning from abroad and three locally spread.

Two of those were in the northeastern province of Jilin, parts of which have tightened social distancing restrictions in response to a local cluster of still-unknown origin.

Residents of the province's Jilin city must show certificates of health, including a recent negative nucleic acid test, if they wished to leave the city, state media reported. In Shulan county, which is under the city's jurisdiction, train service has been halted until the end of the month.

The industrial city of Shenyang in neighbouring Liaoning province is requiring visitors from Shulan county to undergo a 21-day quarantine on arrival, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

In other parts of the country, restrictions have been gradually lifted.

Many people in Beijing, where no cases have been reported in weeks, have been going increasingly mask-less outdoors, although most establishments still require they wear protective gear when indoors among other people and on public transport.

No new COVID-19 deaths have been reported in China in over a month, although some have been announced retroactively after further tests were performed.

Just 82 people remain in treatment while another 450 are under isolation and monitoring as suspected cases or for testing positive for the virus without showing symptoms.

China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths among 82,954 cases of the virus since it was first detected in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region, Crowds and vehicular traffic surged back to shopping malls in the Philippine capital after a two-month coronavirus lockdown was eased.

Police warned of possible arrests and mall closures if crowds weren't regulated.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the quarantine in the main northern Luzon region was slowly being eased to revitalize the economy and not because we are safe.

Roque warned against public complacency. The Philippines has counted more than 12,500 infections and 824 deaths.

It has only been able to do about a third of a daily target of 30,000 coronavirus tests so far. Only metropolitan Manila and two other high-risk areas remain under a strict lockdown, and fitness gyms, barber shops, movie houses and other recreation hubs remain shut under the eased guidelines.

South Korea reported 15 fresh cases of the new coronavirus and one more death, bringing its totals to 11,065 cases and 263 fatalities.

South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said it believed 10 of the new cases were linked to passengers arriving from abroad.

Only two new cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area, where tens of thousands were tested in recent weeks after health officials discovered dozens of infections linked to clubgoers.

Officials have expressed hope that the transmissions are waning and plan move ahead with a phased reopening of schools, starting with high-school seniors on Wednesday.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 18 2020. 10:50 IST