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South Korea announces ‘gradual return to normal life’ from November

Seoul: South Korean President Moon Jae In on Monday announced a "gradual return to normal life" in the country starting in November. During a budget speech in parliament, Moon said schools would return entirely to in-classroom teaching and community senior centres would return to normal operations. At the same time, some health measures would stay in place for the moment, including mask-wearing rules. More than 70 per cent of South Korea''s population of some 52 million people have now been fully vaccinated, the country''s health authorities announced Saturday. The vaccination campaign began in February and was initially sluggish but gained momentum with increased dose deliveries in the last few months. South Korea has dealt well with the coronavirus pandemic compared to many other countries. Daily infections have remained low without any nationwide lockdowns thanks to widespread testing and swift contact tracing by authorities. However, the country has been battling a fourth coronavirus wave since summer. On Monday, authorities reported 1,423 infections and 21 deaths. Indonesian president calls for South-East Asian travel corridor Jakarta: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday called for a South-East Asian travel corridor to revive the economy as coronavirus cases subsided in the region. Joko said countries in the region had imposed some of the world''s toughest restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.  "ASEAN economic recovery must be accelerated by reactivating travel, including safe tourism," Joko told a business forum ahead of the summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday.  "With the Covid-19 situation increasingly under control, mobility restrictions can be loosened," he said.   He said the so-called ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement proposed by Indonesia last year should be implemented as soon as possible.  On October 14, Indonesia re-opened its tourist islands of Bali and Riau Archipelago to visitors from 19 countries, but fellow ASEAN countries including Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand were not among them.  Indonesia has gradually eased Covid-19 restrictions after a surge in coronavirus cases overwhelmed hospitals in June and July.  But in recent weeks daily cases have sunk to below 1,000.The world''s fourth most populous country has recorded more than 4.2 million coronavirus cases, with more than 143,000 deaths. China orders lockdown to curb Covid outbreak in remote north-west Beijing: China is taking strict measures to combat a new outbreak of coronavirus infections in the northern county of Ejin, close to Mongolia, where tens of thousands of people have been instructed not to leave their homes. Ejin is the source of about a third of the 150 infections registered in China since last week. The Chinese government pursues a strict "zero Covid" strategy. With curfews, mass testing, contact tracing, quarantine, strict entry restrictions, as well as a mass vaccination campaign, the country has so far largely kept the coronavirus under control. However, small outbreaks occur every now and again, which are then brought under control using strict methods. The current outbreak was triggered by the introduction of the virus from abroad, according to Chinese state media, which added that a Chinese tour group travelling the country then spread the virus elsewhere. At least 11 provinces have now been affected by the outbreak, and several infections have even been recorded in Beijing. The Beijing marathon planned in the Chinese capital for next Sunday has been cancelled. The current outbreak is "in a rapid development phase," a deputy director of the disease control office of the health commission was quoted as saying. The number of detected cases will likely continue to rise in the coming days.