Coronavirus is Spreading Faster in Asian Countries

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In the shadow of the corona crisis in India, infections in surrounding countries are now also increasing.

In Thailand, there has been a peak in the past week, but the number of infections and victims is also increasing very quickly in poorer countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal. It is also feared that the Indian variety will spread throughout the Indian Ocean from East Africa to Southeast Asia through contacts.

For weeks, India has been in the throes of a deep crisis. The number of infections and deaths breaks records almost every day, the hospitals can no longer cope with the influx of patients, and there is a shortage of oxygen and medicines, which causes sick people to die en masse.

As a result, it is less noticeable that there is also a significant increase in infections and deaths in the wider area. In the poor neighbouring country of Nepal (28 million inhabitants), the already limited healthcare among patients is cracking. Large parts of the country are now in lockdown, with schools, shops and offices closed. In recent days, the number of registered infections has always exceeded 7,000. Half of this comes from the valley of the capital Kathmandu, but the figures from remote regions are very unreliable. Of all tests, 44 percent turned out to be positive, so there may be many hidden infections.

Nepal especially fears the uncontrolled return of tens of thousands of guest workers fleeing India. In principle, they must be tested and quarantined, but the almost 2,000 kilometres long border cannot be checked. Nepal also no longer receives vaccines from India because that country has temporarily banned exports.

The latter also applies to Bangladesh (160 million inhabitants). That country has officially closed the 4,000kilometre-long border with India, but here too, that is impossible in practice. At the beginning of April, Bangladesh peaked with 7,600 registered infections per day, now it has dropped to 1,300, but it could soon reverse. Bangladesh has now requested Russian and Chinese vaccines.

Officially, Pakistan has not done so badly with 800,000 infections and 18,000 deaths. The border with India was already closed due to political problems, and now passenger traffic with Afghanistan and Iran is almost impossible. However, the real numbers may be much higher.

Pakistan (population 220 million) carries out very few tests. Many residents do not adhere to the measures such as mouth masks and keep their distance. The country is receiving Chinese vaccines, but much of the population is very opposed to vaccines in general—the reason why Pakistan is one of the few countries where polio still exists.

Further afield – in Southeast Asia – the sudden spike in infections and deaths is striking in Thailand, a country that has weathered the epidemic quite well. In total, 245 people died of the virus in Thailand, which is remarkably few. If there was a sudden surge to almost a thousand infections per day at the end of January, that was just under 3,000 last week. Today, the number of day-to-day infections in Thailand is just over 2,000, which may result from stricter corona measures that took effect in mid-April in the capital Bangkok and large parts of the country. Yesterday, however, a record number of 31 deaths was recorded.

What Thailand is doing less well is vaccinating. Only slightly more than one percent of the nearly 70 million inhabitants have received the first dose. In that respect, Thailand lags behind Southeast Asia. Like Singapore, Thailand no longer lets in people from India, but so does those from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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