Japan, South Korea take action . . .
While COVID-19 outbreaks are rampant in Europe and the United States, Asia is also facing an upsurge in reported cases. In both Japan and South Korea, governments are enacting new restrictions with cases on the rise. Tokyo is likely to declare a second state of emergency for the capital area and neighbouring prefectures, while in South Korea, the government is expanding the ban on social gatherings larger than four people to the whole country. Although the virus’s spread is minimal in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, each is tightening measures to some degree with a slight uptick in confirmed infections. China reported 33 new cases yesterday, Hong Kong 53, and Taiwan only two.
Situation worsens in Southeast Asia . . .
Vietnam, which recently detected its first case of the new COVID-19 variant, is suspending flights from the U.K. and South Africa, which have both recorded instances of the new strain. Indonesia, which is beginning its vaccination program next week, has entirely banned foreign visitors from entering the country for two weeks because of the new variant. The situation has also degraded in Thailand, which registered a record-high 745 new cases on Monday, prompting the prime minister to urge the population to stay home to avoid a strict lockdown.
Pandemic stabilizes in South Asia . . .
Densely populated South Asia is also suffering, with India, despite taking decisive actions to contain the spread, remaining the world’s second-worst affected country with over 10 million reported cases. However, today it reported 16,375 new cases, its lowest daily number in six months. And as it prepares to begin vaccinating its population, Delhi claims it has successfully cultured the new, more infectious strain. While it remains to be seen if vaccines will be effective against the new strain, India’s discovery is a welcome step in the global fight against the pandemic.