Asia Today: 8 dead in pandemic unrest at Sri Lanka prison

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - Inmates unhappy about the coronavirus threat at an overcrowded prison near the Sri Lankan capital have bumped into guards who opened fire. Eight prisoners were killed and 59 others injured. Two guards were seriously injured, they said.
Pandemic-related unrest has increased in the country's prisons. Inmates have held protests in several prisons in recent weeks as the number of coronavirus cases in the facilities soars.
More than a thousand inmates in five prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two have died. About 50 prison guards have also tested positive.
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Senaka Perera, an attorney for the Prisoners' Rights Protection Committee, said inmates at Mahara Prison near Colombo had been frustrated with requests for coronavirus testing and the separation of infected prisoners from officials for more than a month had been ignored.
Sri Lanka has seen a surge in coronavirus cases since last month when two clusters emerged in Colombo and its suburbs - one in a clothing factory and one in a fish market.
Confirmed cases from the two clusters have reached 19,449. Sri Lanka has reported a total of 22,988 coronavirus cases, including 109 deaths.
For other developments in the Asia Pacific region:
- Hong Kong introduced sweeping curbs to prevent a renewed spike in coronavirus infections, shut down government offices and swimming pools, and limit public gatherings to two people. The announcement follows a decision to close schools for personal tuition for the remainder of the year. Area manager, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, announced 76 new confirmed cases. That was in addition to 115 infections reported on Sunday. Lam said the upswing was "very serious". Lam said government employees, other than those in emergency services, work from home. She said private employers were asked to do the same if they could.
- The Cambodian Ministry of Education orders the closure of all schools after a rare local coronavirus outbreak. It is said that public schools will be closed until January 11, the start of the next school year, while private schools will have to be closed for two weeks. Officials said over the weekend that a family of six and another man tested positive for the coronavirus. Eight other cases were reported on Monday among Phnom Penh residents who were in contact with the family. Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed concern that the woman believed to be the cause of the outbreak has traveled extensively in the country. Around 3,300 people in seven provinces who have been found to have had contact with family are being tested, the ministry said. Also on Monday, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts announced the closure of all theaters and museums and the ban on public concerts for the next two weeks.
- India has registered 38,772 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 9.43 million. The Ministry of Health reported 443 deaths on Monday over the same period, bringing the death toll to 137,139. India continues to have one of the lowest deaths per million people in the world, the ministry said in a statement. India's one-day cases have been below the 50,000 mark for more than three weeks. Daily infections have also decreased in the capital, New Delhi. Fewer than 5,000 new cases were reported for the second day in a row. 68 deaths were recorded on Sunday, bringing the total to 9,066 deaths in the capital. India ranks second after the United States in total coronavirus cases reported. To slow the spread of the virus, the Home Office has allowed states to impose local restrictions, such as curfews, but has sought consultation before any state, district, or city-level lockdowns are imposed.
- Japan says a quick business travel deal with China went into effect on Monday. The deal was signed during China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Japan last week for talks with his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi. The fast-track agreement allows travelers to conduct limited business activities during a 14-day quarantine period after arrival. Motegi said in a statement that he hoped the deal would help foster exchanges between the two neighbors. Cabinet chief Katsunobu Kato told reporters that resumption of international travel is "essential" for the pandemic-hit economy to recover. He said the government will also do everything possible to maintain adequate border control as Japan grapples with the recent virus resurgence.
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