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Coronavirus: Asia urges vigilance as countries work to limit spread of COVID-19

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As millions of people in Europe, the United States and beyond began holing up at home, stocking up on supplies and keeping a wary eye on how close they get to friends and neighbours, the coronavirus outbreak marked a distinct shift in focus Monday, with China‘s total infections reported at less than half of the rest of the world’s.

But while the outbreak appears to be moving away from its original epicenter, many in Asia, where the virus has been a brutal fact of life for months, continue to urge vigilance against anything that might hurt hard-won gains.

“If we loosen our grip on the quarantine, it could be a matter of time for the embers of small-scale cluster infections to be revived,” the South Korean mass-circulation Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial Monday.

Around the globe, societies inched toward a shutdown of much of public life _ bars, restaurants, school, work. Resorts closed on the Las Vegas strip. Many restaurants offered only takeout, if they were open at all. Schools, concerts, sporting events — even small-scale St. Patrick’s Day parties — were cancelled.

China, where the virus was first detected in December, now accounts for less than half of the world’s 169,000 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

A shutdown of public gatherings and a quarantine of the hardest-hit central region has steadied China’s caseload as the virus spreads rapidly elsewhere. Most of the world’s 77,000 recovered patients are in China.

Traffic has begun returning to Beijing. Office buildings, however, are enforcing strict screenings for fever, and many restaurants only offer takeout. Children usually snowed under with classes and homework found themselves glued to screens, shopping, chatting and watching video clips.

A number of Asian cities have become increasingly worried about importing cases of the virus from abroad after making inroads in containing its spread at home.

Starting Monday, travellers arriving in Beijing from overseas will be quarantined for 14 days in designated facilities at their own expense. Previously, people without symptoms could self-quarantine at home.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Trudeau to address Canadians as concern grows over COVID-19

In the latest tally, China’s National Health Commission reported 16 new cases of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours. Twelve of them were imported from overseas.

China now has 80,860 confirmed cases. The health commission said that 67,749 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Fourteen more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, raising the toll to 3,213.

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