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It?s Not Just India. New Virus Waves Deluge Developing Countries - May 3, 2021

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  • It?s Not Just India. New Virus Waves Deluge Developing Countries - May 3, 2021

    posted with permission

    hat tip Jason Gale

    (BN) It?s Not Just India. New Virus Waves Deluge Developing Countries
    It?s Not Just India. New Virus Waves Deluge Developing Countries
    2021-05-03 21:00:00.0 GMT

    By Jinshan Hong, Randy Thanthong-Knight and Jason Scott
    (Bloomberg) -- It?s not just India. Fierce new Covid-19
    waves are enveloping other developing countries across the
    world, placing severe strain on their health-care systems and
    prompting appeals for help.
    Nations ranging from Laos to Thailand in Southeast Asia,
    and those bordering India such as Bhutan and Nepal, have been
    reporting significant surges in infections in the past few
    weeks. The increase is mainly because of more contagious virus
    variants, though complacency and lack of resources to contain
    the spread have also been cited as reasons.
    In Laos last week, the health minister sought medical
    equipment, supplies and treatment, as cases jumped more than
    200-fold in a month. Nepal is seeing hospitals quickly filling
    up and running out of oxygen supplies. Health facilities are
    under pressure in Thailand, where 98% of new cases are from a
    more infectious strain of the pathogen, while some island
    nations in the Pacific Ocean are facing their first Covid waves.
    Although nowhere close to India?s population or flare-up in
    scope, the reported spikes in these handful of nations have been
    far steeper, signaling the potential dangers of an uncontrolled
    spread. The resurgence -- and first-time outbreaks in some
    places that largely avoided the scourge last year -- heightens
    the urgency of delivering vaccine supplies to poorer, less
    influential countries and averting a protracted pandemic.
    ?It?s very important to realize that the situation in India
    can happen anywhere,? said Hans Kluge, the regional director at
    the World Health Organization for Europe, during a briefing last
    week. ?This is still a huge challenge.?
    Ranked by the change in newly recorded infections in the
    past month over the previous month, Laos came first with a
    22,000% increase, followed by Nepal and Thailand, both of which
    saw fresh caseload skyrocketing more than 1,000% on a month-
    over-month basis.
    Also on top of the list are Bhutan, Trinidad and Tobago,
    Suriname, Cambodia and Fiji, as they witnessed the epidemic
    erupt at a high triple-digit pace.
    ?All countries are at risk,? said David Heymann, a
    professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London
    School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. ?The disease appears to
    be becoming endemic and will therefore likely remain a risk to
    all countries for the foreseeable future.?
    ================================================== ==============
    Read more on India?s crisis:
    ================================================== ==============
    Indian Diaspora Struggles to Help Homeland ?Gasping for
    Air??Please Help!?: Covid Tragedy Spills Onto Social Media in
    IndiaDelhi Extends Lockdown by a Week to Control Virus Outbreak
    On May 1, India reported a record 401,993 new cases in the
    prior 24 hours, while deaths touched a new high of 3,689 the
    following day. The nation?s hospitals and crematoriums are
    working overtime to cope with the sick and the surging number of
    deaths. Compounding the crisis, health-care facilities are also
    facing a shortage of medical oxygen, unable to treat distressed
    patients with coronavirus-infected lungs gasping for air at
    their doorsteps.
    The abrupt outbreak in Laos -- a place that only recorded
    60 cases since the start of the pandemic through April 20 and no
    death to date -- shows the challenges facing some of the
    landlocked nations. Porous borders make it harder to clamp down
    on illegal crossings though entry is technically banned.
    Communist-ruled Laos has ordered lockdowns in its capital
    Vientiane and banned travel between the capital and provinces.
    The health minister reached out to neighbors like Vietnam for
    assistance on life-saving resources. Nepal and Bhutan have seen
    cases erupt, in part due to returning nationals. Nepal, which
    has identified cases of the new Indian variant, has limited
    resources to combat the virus.

    ?Very Serious?

    The situation is ?very serious,? according to Ali Mokdad,
    Chief Strategy Officer for Population Health at the University
    of Washington. ?New variants will require a new vaccine and a
    booster for those already vaccinated -- they will delay the
    control of the pandemic.?
    Mokdad said the economic hardship of poorer countries make
    the battle even tougher.
    Thailand, which had been seeking to revive its ailing
    tourism industry, just reintroduced a two-week mandatory
    quarantine for all visitors. A government forecast for 2021
    tourism revenue was cut to 170 billion baht ($5.4 billion), from
    January?s expectations for 260 billion baht. With the country?s
    public health system under pressure, authorities are trying to
    set up field hospitals to accommodate a flood of patients.
    About 98% of cases in Thailand are of the variant first
    identified in the U.K. based on a sample of 500 people,
    according to Yong Poovorawan, chief of the Center of Excellence
    in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University.

    Red Zone

    In Cambodia, since the beginning of the current outbreak,
    more than 10,000 locally acquired cases have been detected in
    more than 20 provinces. The Cambodian capital Phnom Penh is now
    a ?red zone,? or a high-risk outbreak area. In Sri Lanka, the
    island-nation at the southern tip of India, authorities have
    isolated areas, banned weddings and meetings and closed cinemas
    and pubs to cap a record spike following last month?s local New
    Year festivities. The government says the situation is under
    Across the oceans in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago
    announced a partial lockdown after the country?s daily cases hit
    a record high, closing restaurants, malls and cinemas until late
    May. The case count in the latest month is about 700% more than
    the previous month.
    That high level of increase is also seen in Suriname, on
    the northeastern coast of South America. Cases in April rose
    over 600% from that in March.
    After staying relatively Covid-free thanks to strict border
    controls, some of the Pacific island-nations are now seeing
    their first wave. Cities in the tourist hot spot of Fiji have
    gone into lockdown after the wider community contracted the
    virus from the military.
    ?The recent rise in recorded cases throughout the Pacific
    reveals how critical it is to not just rely on strong borders
    but to actually get vaccines into these countries,? said
    Jonathan Pryke, who heads research on the Pacific region for the
    Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank. ?India is a shocking
    warning to this part of the world about how quickly this
    pandemic can spiral out of control.?
    There?s a duty for developed countries, recovering from the
    pandemic thanks to rapid inoculations, to contribute to a more
    equitable global distribution of vaccines, diagnostic tests and
    therapeutic agents including oxygen, according to Heymann, the
    professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
    ?The developed world can and should contribute funding and
    at the same time share with other countries any excess vaccines
    they may have in stock,? he said.

    --With assistance from Anusha Ondaatjie.

    To contact the reporters on this story:
    Jinshan Hong in Hong Kong at;
    Randy Thanthong-Knight in Bangkok at;
    Jason Scott in Canberra at
    To contact the editors responsible for this story:
    Rachel Chang at
    Sam Nagarajan