Singapore (Reuters) – India, South Korea and Thailand faced mounting infections with coronavirus on Thursday, undermining cautious hopes that Asia may be coming out of the worst of the pandemic, as security concerns threatened to delay campaigning. vaccination.
India recorded a record 126,789 new cases. On the third day of this week, counts rose to more than 100,000, taking authorities by surprise who blame the crowd and the reluctance to wear masks when stores and offices reopen.
More infectious variants of the virus may have played a role in India’s rise, say some epidemiologists, with hundreds of cases found of variants first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
The alarming numbers have prompted New Zealand to temporarily ban anyone arriving from India, even for the first time preventing New Zealand citizens from returning home, for about two weeks.
“We are temporarily suspending the entry of travelers from India to New Zealand,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference in Auckland.
New Zealand, which virtually eliminated the virus within its borders, registered 23 new cases at its border on Thursday, 17 in India.
Two other countries that managed to keep the coronavirus under control during the first year of the pandemic were also battling new waves, albeit smaller than those in India.
South Korea registered 700 new cases on Thursday, its highest daily number since the beginning of January, and the prime minister warned that new rules of social detachment are likely to be needed.
Thailand, which has planned a cautious reopening of its tourism industry, reported an increase in the number of new daily infections to 405 on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 30,310, with 95 deaths.
To heighten Thailand’s concerns, he detected 24 cases of a highly contagious virus variant first detected in Britain, the first reported domestic transmission of the variant.
Cases are also increasing in parts of Europe, but South America is the most worrying region in the world for infections, with cases increasing in almost all countries, said the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on Wednesday. fair.
SUSPENSION OF STRIPS
The growing number of cases in Asia is occurring as concerns over the safety of one of the most well-known vaccines against the virus grow.
The European Medicines Agency said on Wednesday it found rare cases of blood clots among some adult recipients of AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine, although it said the vaccine’s benefits still outweigh the risks.
Both South Korea and the Philippines have suspended the use of the vaccine for people under the age of 60 because of possible links to blood clots, while Australia and Taiwan said they would continue to use it.
Concern about the vaccine could delay immunization initiatives in Asia, some of which are already being affected by supply problems. Campaigns in most parts of Asia lag behind those in places like Britain and the United States.
Australia’s program to vaccinate its nearly 26 million people is more than 80% behind the original schedule.
The authorities promised to administer at least 4 million first doses by the end of March, but could only administer 670,000. The government blamed Europe’s supply problems.
As cases in India are on the rise, vaccination centers in various parts of the country, including the hardest hit state of Maharashtra, are running out of supplies.
China, where the new coronavirus emerged in late 2019, is moving forward with its vaccination campaign, administering about 3.68 million doses on Wednesday, bringing its total number of doses to 149.07 million, officials said. .
Japan’s vaccinations are far behind those of most major economies, with only one vaccine approved and about 1 million people having received their first dose since February, even as they struggle with new cases.
Infections in Tokyo increased by 545 cases on Thursday, raising concerns about the Olympics and Paralympics, which were delayed compared to last year and are now expected to start at the end of July.
The government struggled to calm the social media furor, saying it was not looking to prioritize vaccines for its Olympic athletes, rejecting a media report that it was considering doing so.
Japan is not insisting that incoming athletes be vaccinated, but there will be frequent tests while they are in Japan. There will be no foreign spectators and a decision on nationals has not yet been made.
Reporting by the Reuters team; Written by Robert Birsel; Simon Cameron-Moore edition