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More than 18,000 people quarantined in China as COVID-19 cases rise in Asia

Thursday marked six months since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health emergency on Jan.30.
Image: People wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus wait to cross an intersection in Beijing
People wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus wait to cross an intersection in Beijing, China on Wednesday.Mark Schiefelbein / AP

Six months after the coronavirus was declared a global health emergency, China on Thursday said it has more than 18,000 people in quarantine amid a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country.

More than 12,000 of those were in the western province of Xinjiang, the focal point of this latest outbreak. Officials have locked down some residential areas in the city, restricted public transit and ordered mass testing.

The last time China reported more than 18,000 people who have been in close contact with confirmed coronavirus cases to be "under medical observation" was on April 3. At the height of the pandemic in February, that number stood at over 189,000, according to the country's National Health Commission.

Image: A worker in protective suit measures the body temperature of a woman at the entrance to a residential compound in Urumqi, Xinjiang.
A worker in protective suit measures the body temperature of a woman at the entrance to a residential compound in Urumqi, Xinjiang.cnsphoto / via Reuters

Chinese health officials reported 105 new cases on July 29. The number of new cases in mainland China is still well below the peaks seen in February, but the resurgence underscores the challenge of controlling the virus even in countries that have had some success in containing it.

Elsewhere, Australia recorded its deadliest day in the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday with at least 13 deaths and more than 700 new infections mainly in the southeast state of Victoria, where the government ordered all residents to wear face-coverings outside.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said current restrictions are not yielding the results his government has hoped for and further measures are necessary.

“On some days the virus wins, on other days we beat it," Morrison said. "But I think we’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus.”

Meanwhile, in Japan the number of new COVID-19 cases topped 1,000 on Thursday for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began in February, albeit the Japanese government said it had no plan to declare a state of emergency.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

The capital, Tokyo, set a new daily record with 367 cases, with the local government asking restaurants and bars to shorten their working hours to curb the spread of the virus.

“When you look at the long battle against the coronavirus, it’s unrealistic to ask them to close completely,” Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said.

Vietnam, which has been virus-free for months, is bracing for a new surge of COVID-19 after health officials reported new cases in capital Hanoi and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, linked to an outbreak in the central city of Danang.

Hanoi authorities said they would shut bars and ban large gatherings to help stop the virus from spreading.

“We have to act now and act fast,” Nguyen Duc Chung, the chairman of the city administration, said in a statement Wednesday.

India on Thursday recorded more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time, Reuters reported, driven by a surge in infections in rural areas at a time when the government is further easing curbs on movement and commerce.

There were 52,123 new cases in the previous 24 hours, according to federal health data, taking the total number of infections to almost 1.6 million, the third highest number of infections globally behind the U.S. and Brazil.

There are now more than 17 million cases and more than 660,000 deaths worldwide, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed.

In the U.S., which continues to grapple with the world's highest case and death tolls, more than 4.3 million cases and 150,000 deaths have been confirmed so far, according to NBC News' tally.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.