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South Korea plans tracking wristbands as US deaths rise

Worldwide, confirmed infections rose to 1.7 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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Disinfectant is sprayed in a slum alley in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Leo Correa/AP)

Disinfectant is sprayed in a slum alley in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Leo Correa/AP)

Disinfectant is sprayed in a slum alley in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Leo Correa/AP)

South Korea has announced plans to strap tracking wristbands on people who defy quarantine orders, and Christians were urged to stay at home over the Easter weekend as the global coronavirus death toll passed 100,000.

South Korean officials said stricter controls are required because some of the 57,000 people who are under orders to stay at home have slipped out by leaving behind smartphones with tracking apps.

Plans for broader use of wristbands were scaled back after objections by human rights and legal activists.

Meanwhile, US health authorities reported more outbreaks in New York City and the surrounding region, an area with some 20 million people that accounts for more than half of the 500,000 American cases.

Other hot spots are in Detroit, Louisiana and the national capital, Washington.

Worldwide, confirmed infections rose to 1.7 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

In China, where the pandemic began in December, the government reported three deaths and 46 additional cases in the 24 hours to midnight Friday.

The number of new daily cases has declined dramatically, allowing the ruling Communist Party to reopen factories and shops.

China has reported 3,339 deaths and 81,953 confirmed infections, though critics say the real totals might be higher.

Also Saturday, the US consulate in Guangzhou in southern China advised African-Americans to avoid the city following complaints that police ordered restaurants and bars not to serve people of African origin.

It said authorities were requiring mandatory self-quarantine for anyone with “African contacts”.

Public health officials and religious leaders urged Roman Catholics and Protestants to stay at home on Easter Sunday, their faith’s most important holiday.

Authorities in Europe put up roadblocks, used helicopters and drones, and cited drivers who had no good reason to be out.

On Good Friday, some churches worldwide held services online, while others arranged prayers at drive-in cinemas. In Paris, services were broadcast from a nearly empty Notre Dame Cathedral, closed to the public and still heavily scarred from a fire a year ago.

The Roman Catholic archbishop of New Orleans sprinkled holy water from the Jordan River on the city from a biplane flying overhead.

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Police officers at a checkpoint in Jakarta, Indonesia (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

Police officers at a checkpoint in Jakarta, Indonesia (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

AP/PA Images

Police officers at a checkpoint in Jakarta, Indonesia (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

South Korean health officials acknowledged privacy and civil liberties concerns about the wristband plan, but said they were necessary because the number of people under self-quarantine soared after the country began requiring 14-day isolation for anyone arriving from abroad from April 1.

The wristbands, which communicate with tracking apps installed on smartphones through Bluetooth, are designed to alert officials if the wearers leave home or try to destroy or cut them off.

South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 886 of the country’s 10,480 coronavirus infections have been traced to international arrivals.

The number of people under self-quarantine includes 49,697 who arrived from abroad. Another 1,340 foreign short-term visitors are quarantined.

The United States, with some 18,500 deaths, is on track to pass Italy as the country with the highest fatality toll.

“I understand intellectually why it’s happening,” said governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, where deaths rose by 777, to more than 7,800. “It doesn’t make it any easier to accept.”

New York officials said the number of people in intensive care dropped for the first time since mid-March and numbers being taken to hospital were slowing: 290 new patients in a single day, compared with daily increases of more than 1,000 last week.

Mr Cuomo said if that trend holds, New York might not need the overflow field hospitals that officials have been scrambling to build.

Spain recorded 605 more deaths, its lowest figure in more than two weeks, bringing its overall toll to more than 15,800. Italy reported 570 additional deaths for a total of more than 18,800.

Questions intensified about when restrictions might be loosened.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Spain said factories and construction sites could resume work Monday, while schools, most shops and offices will remain closed. In Italy, there were pleas to restart manufacturing.

President Donald Trump said he will not lift US restrictions until conditions are safe but announced an Opening Our Country taskforce and said: “I want to get it open as soon as possible.”

The head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that easing restrictions prematurely could “lead to a deadly resurgence”.

Italy, Ireland and Greece extended lockdown orders into May.

PA