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Asia Today: S. Korea cases rise, China weighs health changes

South Korea reported 40 new cases of the coronavirus, its biggest daily jump in nearly 50 days, causing alarm in a country where millions of children were returning to school Wednesday.

Active tracing and testing had stabilized the country's outbreak from its March highs, which allowed officials to ease social distancing guidelines.

But a steady rise in cases in the greater capital area in recent weeks has raised concern as officials proceed with a phased reopening of schools. High school seniors returned to schools last week. More than 2 million high school juniors, middle school seniors, first- and second-grade elementary school children and kindergartners were expected to return to school on Wednesday.

Medical staff spray disinfectant on a nucleic acid test kit collected from a reporter who was selected to cover the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at a hotel in Beijing, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)

The latest figures by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought national totals to 11,265 cases and 269 deaths from COVID-19.

All but four of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have been scrambling to stem transmissions linked to nightclubs, karaoke rooms and an e-commerce warehouse. Three cases were linked to international arrivals.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

A medical staff prepares to conduct a nucleic acid test on a selected reporter before they are admitted to cover the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) following the coronavirus outbreak, at a hotel in Beijing, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)

— HEALTH SYSTEM IMPROVEMENT PUSHED: Legislators at China's ceremonial parliament session pushed for improvements in the public health system. Public health has featured more highly than usual at the National People’s Congress session, which was delayed and shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic. Systems for disease prevention and control need to be refined and procedures established to link information reporting and analysis, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted delegate Luo Jie, a hospital president in hard-hit Hubei province, as saying. China reported one imported case of coronavirus Wednesday. It has counted 4,634 deaths from among 82,993 cases.

A foreign reporter looks at medical staff prepare to conduct a nucleic acid test on him before he is admitted to cover the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) following the coronavirus outbreak, at a hotel in Beijing, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)

A medical staff conducts a nucleic acid test on a selected reporter before she is admitted to cover the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) following the coronavirus outbreak at a hotel in Beijing, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)