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Not only in India: COVID-19 cases are exploding in developing countries

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A fierce new wave of COVID-19 is engulfing developing countries around the world, putting a serious burden on their health care system and urging calls for help.

Significant outbreaks of infectious diseases have been reported in recent weeks, from Laos, Thailand and Southeast Asia to countries bordering India such as Bhutan and Nepal.

This increase is primarily due to more contagious viral variants, but also due to lack of resources to contain complacency and spread.

In Laos last week, the number of cases surged more than 200 times a month, so the Minister of Health sought medical equipment, consumables and treatment. In Nepal, we are witnessing hospitals filling up rapidly and lacking oxygen supply.

Healthcare facilities are under pressure in Thailand, with 98% of new cases due to more infectious strains of the pathogen, but some island nations in the Pacific face the first COVID-19 wave.

Although not close to a rekindling of India’s population and size, the spread reported in these handfuls of countries is much faster, indicating the risk of the virus going out of control. These latest developments increase the urgency of providing vaccine supplies to poorer, less influential countries and avoiding longer-lasting pandemics.

“It is very important to recognize that the situation in India can happen anywhere,” said Hans Kluge, regional director of the World Health Organization in Europe, during a briefing last week. “This is still a big challenge.”

Laos, ranked by last month’s newly recorded changes from the previous month of infection, is number one with an increase of 22,000%. This was followed by Nepal and Thailand, both of which saw a sharp increase in new case loads of over 1,000% month-on-month.

Bhutan, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Cambodia and Fiji are also at the top of the list, with epidemics occurring at a three-digit pace.

The family prays near the COVID-19 victims in Kathmandu on Monday. | Reuters
The family prays near the COVID-19 victims in Kathmandu on Monday. | Reuters

David Hayman, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Economics and Tropical Medicine, said: “The disease appears to be endemic and may remain a risk for all countries for the foreseeable future.”

On May 1, India reported a record 401,993 new cases in the last 24 hours. The next day, the death toll reached a new high of 3,689 in 24 hours.

National hospitals and crematoriums work overtime to deal with illness and the surge in deaths. To exacerbate the crisis, medical facilities are also facing a shortage of medical oxygen, and coronavirus-infected lungs are unable to treat patients suffering from air sought at the front door. ..

Only 60 outbreaks in Laos have been recorded from the start of the pandemic to April 20, and there have been no deaths to date, a challenge facing some landlocked countries. Is shown. Porous borders make it difficult to crack down on illegal intersections, even if they are technically off limits.

Communist-controlled Laos ordered a blockade in the capital, Vientiane, and banned travel between the capital and the state. The Minister of Health reached out to neighbors like Vietnam for help with life-saving resources.

Incidents have broke out in Nepal and Bhutan, partly because of the returning citizens. Nepal, which has identified cases of new Indian variants, has limited resources to fight the virus.

“Very serious”

Ali Mokudad, chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington, said the situation was “very serious.” “New variants require new vaccines and boosters for those who have already been vaccinated — they delay control of the pandemic.”

Mokudad added that the financial difficulties of poor countries make the fight even more difficult.

Aiming to revive the sick tourism industry, Thailand has resumed two weeks of forced quarantine for all visitors. The government’s forecast for tourism revenue in 2021 has been reduced from the January 260 billion baht forecast to 170 billion baht ($ 5.4 billion).

As the country’s public health system is under pressure, authorities are trying to set up a field hospital to respond to patient floods.

According to Yong Poovorawan, head of the Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, about 98% of Thai cases are the first mutants identified in the UK, based on a sample of 500 people.

Red zone

In Cambodia, more than 10,000 locally acquired cases have been detected in more than 20 states since the outbreak began.

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is currently a “red zone” or high-risk area.

In Sri Lanka, an island nation on the southern tip of India, authorities have isolated the area, banned weddings and conferences, closed cinemas and pubs to curb the record surge following last month’s local New Year’s festival. Did. The government says the situation is in control.

Beyond the Caribbean Sea, Trinidad and Tobago announced a partial blockade after the country’s daily events hit record highs, closing restaurants, malls and cinemas until late May. The number of cases last month was about 700% higher than the previous month.

COVID-19 Vaccination Center in Bangkok | Adam Dean / New York Times
COVID-19 Vaccination Center in Bangkok | Adam Dean / New York Times

That high level of increase is also seen in Suriname, on the northeastern coast of South America. The number of cases in April increased by more than 600% from the number of cases in March.

Some Pacific island nations are now seeing the first wave, after COVID-19 remains relatively low thanks to strict border controls. The city, which is a hotspot for tourists in Fiji, was blocked after a wider community was infected with the virus from the military.

“The recent increase in cases recorded across the Pacific reveals how important it is not only to rely on strong borders, but to actually introduce vaccines in these countries,” said Sydney. Jonathan Pryke, who heads the Pacific Area Studies at the Lowy Institute, said. Base think tank. “India has issued a shocking warning to this part of the world about how quickly this pandemic can go out of control.”

According to Hayman, a professor at the London School of Economics and Tropical Medicine, developed countries have recovered from pandemics thanks to rapid vaccinations, better than vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments containing oxygen. We have an obligation to contribute to fair global distribution. ..

Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Health and Security Center in Baltimore, has yet to see a coordinated global reaction. That is a concern.

Returning to pre-2020 normality “really depends on allowing countries to control the virus as much as possible,” she said. “I really want countries to be able to look inside their country and understand what they can do to help.”

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