Covid-19 accelerates in Southeast Asia over slow vaccination rate

By Noel Caballero

Bangkok, Apr 28 (EFE).- After a year in which the pandemic had almost passed in much of Southeast Asia, the region faced a rebound in Covid-19 cases linked to the so-called British strain of the virus, while vaccination campaigns have been slow.

A new wave of infections in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos adds to the delicate situation in the Philippines, where a health system collapse is feared.

Thailand registered 15 deaths Wednesday for the second consecutive day, the highest number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, fighting an outbreak that has hit Bangkok the most as authorities have made the use of masks in public places mandatory.

The country, the first in the world to confirm a Covid-19 case outside China, recorded data on moderate infections until April compared to others with a higher incidence.

However, after an outbreak linked by experts to the British strain spread rapidly among nightlife establishments in the capital, Thailand has exceeded 2,000 daily new infections.

Thai authorities have erected field hospitals to house patients and warned that tougher measures will be taken if infections continue to rise, while those inoculated with the complete vaccine schedule stood Wednesday at 240,000, 0.36 percent of the population.

Other countries such as Laos or Cambodia, where the pandemic had almost no impact, are also experiencing the virulent threat of Covid-19, and have implemented lockdowns in their capitals and some of the most populated cities.

Cambodia, which registered its first Covid-19-related death in mid-March, is up to 82 fatalities and has recorded more than 11,000 cases.

The Cambodian government extended its confinement in its capital, Phnom Penh and a neighboring city for seven more days since Wednesday, following two weeks in which it has not contained the epidemic.

Laos, a country that had located only a handful of infections until April, marked its maximum number of infections Tuesday at 75, and now has 511 total cases, although it has not registered deaths.

Both countries, political allies of Beijing, blame Thailand for their current outbreak and rely heavily on the Chinese-produced jabs Sinopharm and Sinovac for their vaccination campaigns. Cambodia, with almost 5 percent of the population already fully vaccinated, is faring better than Laos, with 0.8 percent.

The situation in Malaysia is also worrying as it observed a daily increase during its second Covid-19 wave with only 1.6 percent of the population already vaccinated.

The Red Cross on Monday warned of the risk of the collapse of hospitals in the Philippines, the second-worst hit country by the pandemic trailing only Indonesia, despite the strong restrictions Manila has implemented since last year.

The current outbreak, which reached its peak on Apr. 17 with more than 15,000 new cases, is located in the capital and neighboring provinces, where the occupancy of intensive care beds is at about 70 percent.

The Philippines, with 0.2 percent of its population on the full schedule, is one of the countries in the region where vaccinations are slowing down, while Indonesia has already vaccinated 7 million people with two doses, 2.6 percent of its population. Almost 19 million have received at least the first jab.

Although the rate of infections is decreasing in these countries, both Indonesia – with 1.65 million cases, including almost 44,940 deaths – and the Philippines – with 1 million infections and 16,916 deaths — remain the epicenters of the virus in the region.

The military coup in Myanmar and the subsequent brutal crackdown on demonstrations in opposition to the army has thrown the country into chaos.

Testing for the virus has been practically halted in part due to a strike by health personnel that has closed 60 percent of hospitals.

The health situation in Myanmar, which before the Feb. 1 coup was already worrying with 143,000 cases and 3,200 deaths, is now a complete unknown.

Related Articles

Back to top button