Regional outbreaks remain a worry, ST Editorial News & Top Stories

In contrast to some regions, South-east Asia did quite a commendable job in protecting lives and livelihoods during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic last year. But the region is now in danger of becoming a hot spot. Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic nation with 17,500 islands, saw Covid-19 cases surging past the two-million mark on Monday. The situation is worrying in much of Malaysia and Thailand as well. In South-east Asia, as elsewhere, initial successes in battling the disease gave way to a general lowering of the public’s guard and brought the virus back into circulation in no time. People believed the worst was over and that the pandemic would wane on its own. That hope proved unfounded.

Instead, the Delta variant of the virus, which caused havoc in South Asia, spread to more than 80 countries and has continued to mutate. According to a report, not only did the variant affect Britain but it has also become dominant in Portugal and has been found in clusters across Germany, France and Spain. European health officials warn that further action is needed to break the pace of its spread. Indeed, India has just declared a new coronavirus variant to be of concern. The variant, since identified as “Delta plus”, shows increased transmissibility, which makes it a greater potential danger than the Delta variant, which is already highly contagious itself.

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