As they confront rising coronavirus epidemics caused by the more contagious Delta type, Asian countries from Australia to Japan and the Philippines imposed stronger COVID-19 restrictions on Friday.
The Delta variant, which was initially discovered in India, has become a global worry, causing even countries with advanced vaccination programs, such as the United States, Israel, and Singapore, to re-impose some limitations.
However, it is having a greater impact in Asia, where several countries are already experiencing record cases due to inadequate vaccination rates, which have exposed hundreds of millions of people to the highly transmissible strain.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has described Delta to be as contagious as chickenpox and could cause severe illness.
The variant was also more likely to break through protections afforded by the vaccines, the report said.
“We know from the research that it (Delta) has a viral load 1,000 times higher than previous variants, that’s why we see more cases because it transmits more easily and faster,” Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist from Griffith University in Queensland, told Reuters.
He said Delta appears to cause more severe symptoms, especially regarding breathing difficulties.
The Philippines announced a plan on Friday to put the Manila capital region, a sprawl of 16 cities and home to more than 13 million people, in lockdown for two weeks to contain the spread of Delta and to shield the country’s medical system.
India reported on Friday its highest number of daily cases in three weeks, forcing one state to lockdown.
In Japan, the government on Friday proposed states of emergency through the end of August in three prefectures near Olympic host Tokyo and the western prefecture of Osaka.
“Infections are broadening. The situation is extremely severe,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said, warning infections have not yet reached a peak, judging by the increased movement of people and high number of Delta cases among those testing positive for the virus.
Vietnam, which has fully vaccinated less than 1% of its 96 million people, is mobilising private hospitals to take COVID-19 patients.
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