China on Wednesday recorded 30 new cases – 23 of them imported – but no new deaths from the coronavirus.
Of the domestic cases, all seven were reported in Heilongjiang province near the Russian border where a field hospital has been set up to deal with a new flare-up related to people coming home from abroad. Just over 1,000 people are hospitalized for treatment, while about the same number are under isolation and monitoring as either suspected cases or after testing positive but showing no symptoms.
China has reported a total of 4,632 deaths among 82,788 cases, the bulk of them in Wuhan where officials recently raised the death toll by 50% after a review of records.
Five principal officials were appointed after a Cabinet reshuffle in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with new appointments for the ministers overseeing mainland affairs, civil service, financial services and home affairs, as well as innovation and technology.
The reshuffle, approved by the central Chinese government in Beijing and announced by China's State Council, came on recommendations by Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam.
"I have started to map out the strategies for rebooting Hong Kong after the pandemic," Lam said at a news conference, referring to the coronavirus. "A major goal of this reshuffle is to help Hong Kong to get out of this difficult situation as soon as possible."
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, has confirmed 1,030 cases of the coronavirus, including four deaths. On Tuesday, it announced a second two-week extension on measures that include a ban on public gatherings of more than four people and the shutting down of entertainment venues.
Based on the new appointments, Director of Immigration Eric Tsang will replace Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip.
The reshuffle comes after Nip publicly apologized on Monday for conflicting statements by the government on the status and powers of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong,
Nip remains in Lam's Cabinet, taking over as secretary for the civil service from Joshua Law. Lam said the Cabinet reshuffle was unrelated to Nip's public apology.
James Lau, the secretary for financial services and the treasury, will be replaced by Christopher Hui, the executive director of the financial services development council. Nicholas Yang, secretary for innovation and technology, will by replaced by the current electrical and mechanical services director, Alfred Sit.
The undersecretary for labor and welfare, Caspar Tsui, will now be secretary for home affairs, replacing Lau Kong-wah.
Indian forces killed four rebels in a ‘gunbattle’ in disputed Kashmir during a lockdown to tackle the spread of coronavirus, the army said Wednesday.
The fighting broke out in a village in southern Shopian district as counterinsurgency police and soldiers raided a house on a tip that militants were hiding there late Tuesday night, said army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia.
During the gunfight, troops blew up the house with explosives, a common tactic by security forces, residents said.
India has continued its counterinsurgency operations across Kashmir despite a coronavirus lockdown. Militants also have not ceased their attacks on government forces and alleged informants. On Sunday, militants attacked a paramilitary post and killed three soldiers.
The latest violence comes amid near daily fighting between Pakistani and Indian soldiers along the highly militarized frontier that divides Kashmir between the two rivals.
Officer Amritpal Singh said police had not yet identified the slain militants. Residents posting on social media said they were local rebels.
Last week, police secretly buried the bodies of two militants as "unidentified" in a faraway graveyard despite their families seeking to claim them.
According to human rights groups, thousands in Kashmir are buried in unmarked graves, most of them close to the frontier. Indian authorities say those militants are of foreign origin who sneaked into the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir from Pakistani-administered territory to fight government forces.
India and Pakistan claim divided Kashmir in its entirety. Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Indian health ministry Wednesday morning said 37 new deaths of COVID-19, besides an additional 999 positive cases were reported since Tuesday evening across the country, taking the number of deaths to 640 and confirmed cases to 19,984.
"As on 8:00 a.m. local time, today, 640 deaths related to novel coronavirus have been recorded in the country," reads the information released by the ministry.
According to health ministry officials, so far 3,870 people have been discharged from hospitals.
Wednesday marks the 29th straight day of ongoing lockdown across the country, which was announced on March 25 and has been extended until May 3.
India recorded its biggest single-day spike in coronavirus cases on Monday as the government eased one of the world's strictest lockdowns to allow some manufacturing and agricultural activity to resume.
An additional 1,553 cases were reported over 24 hours, raising the national total past 17,000. At least 543 people have died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, and epidemiologists forecast the peak may not be reached before June.
The shelter-in-place orders imposed in India on March 24 halted all but essential services, sparking an exodus of migrant workers and people who survive on daily wages out of India's cities and toward villages in rural areas. Authorities picked up travelers in a fleet of buses and quarantined many of them in empty schools and other public buildings for 14 days.
Starting Monday, limited industry and farming were allowed to resume where employers could meet social distancing and hygiene norms, and migrant workers were allowed to travel within states to factories, farms and other work sites.
"In the event a group of migrants wish to return to their places of work within the state where they are presently located, they would be screened and those who are asymptomatic would be transported to their respective places of work," India's home ministry said in a letter to state governments.
However, government surveys in the central Indian state of Maharashtra, the worst-hit by the virus, have suggested few companies eligible to restart operations can do so because they are required to transport and shelter workers as a virus-prevention measure.
While a partial lifting of a curfew permitted the restart of coal plants and oil refineries, animal feed and agro-industry, and other labor-intensive manufacturing such as brick kilns, much of the country remained under lockdown.
India's airspace was closed to commercial traffic, its passenger rail system, buses and metros were halted, e-commerce was restricted to food and other essentials, and schools, stadiums and houses of worship remained closed until May 3.
India is also continuing to ramp up testing, build up stocks of ventilators and personal protective equipment and prepare makeshift isolation wards and dedicated COVID-19 hospitals.
In Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra and home to Asia's largest slum, city authorities were planning to administer hydroxycloroquine to thousands of slum-dwellers over 14 days to gauge whether the drug helped to slow the spread of the disease in a place where social distancing norms aren't possible to achieve. It was unclear how many people would participate in the experiment, or when it would begin.
President Donald Trump has touted the malaria drug to treat COVID-19, though its efficacy against the disease is unproven.