Southeast Asia’s Covid deaths surge as Red Cross urges vaccine sharing

Bangkok, Aug 18 (EFE).- Southeast Asia recorded nearly twice as many Covid-19 deaths than North America in the past two weeks, the Red Cross said Wednesday, urging wealthier nations to urgently share their vaccines with the region.

Southeast Asia registered 38,522 Covid-19 deaths over the last two weeks, higher than any other region, the organization said, citing data collected by Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

“This Covid-19 surge driven by the Delta variant is claiming a tragic toll on families across Southeast Asia and it’s far from over,” said Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in a statement.

Hospitals are overwhelmed in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, among others, and Myanmar is also dealing with an uncontrolled surge amid low vaccination rates.

“Vaccinations are at record rates in some countries, yet many Southeast Asian nations have low portions of the population fully vaccinated and are languishing far behind Western Europe and North America,” Matheou said.

The Red Cross called on wealthier nations to donate vaccines to the region, warning that the situation may worsen if the virus outbreaks, which are currently concentrated in large cities, spread to rural areas.

“These coming weeks are critical for scaling up treatment, testing and vaccinations, in every corner of all countries in Southeast Asia. We must aim for mass vaccination rates of 70-80 per cent if we want to win the race against the variants and overcome this global pandemic,” he added.

The region last year controlled outbreaks with relative success, but the spread of the Delta variant this year has made Southeast Asia one of the current epicenters of the pandemic.

The surge surprised governments, some of which had taken a relaxed approach to securing vaccines, relying on border closures and other restrictions.

The Philippines and Indonesia, the countries in the region most affected by the virus, have fully vaccinated around 11 percent of their target population, while Thailand sits at 7.5 percent and Vietnam 2 percent.

On the other end of the scale, Singapore has fully vaccinated 70 percent of its population, and Cambodia 44 percent, while Malaysia has reached around 35 percent.

Myanmar’s scenario is more complex because the outbreak there coincides with a deep political and social crisis derived from the military coup on Feb. 1. EFE


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