Summer season one of the culprits in the spread . . .
Driven by the more-transmissible Delta variant, as well as pandemic fatigue among citizens eager to take advantage of vacation season, cases of COVID-19 continue to spike throughout Asia. Singapore reported 96 new cases of community transmission on August 4, while the seven-day rolling average of new cases reached 1,776 in South Korea. In Japan, which is currently hosting the Olympic Games, new cases reached 14,207, with Tokyo reporting a single-day high of 4,166. However, the true number of infections is likely higher, as the test positivity rate is currently nearly 12 percent.
COVID-19 fears realized amidst Olympic Games . . .
The situation in Japan is particularly dire, with Tokyo and several prefectures under a state of emergency, and the government announcing a new policy of reserving hospital beds for those who are severely ill. The situation is further complicated by the presence of the Olympic Games, which are being carried out with strict precautions, including an absence of spectators. The government and Olympic officials claim that there is no link between the Games and the recent surge in infections – a claim that has been disputed by some medical experts. Although the ‘bubble’ seems to be holding, with no evidence so far that the 320 cases linked to the Olympics have sparked outbreaks within the community, there is evidence that the Games have indirectly influenced community transmission. Reports have surfaced of people gathering to watch outdoor events while many bars and restaurants continue to defy the requested 8:00 pm closing time.
Vaccination struggles persist . . .
Throughout Asia, the COVID-19 situation continues to be exacerbated by comparatively slow vaccination roll-outs, complicated by supply issues and a lack of urgency among populations that have experienced relatively controlled rates of COVID-19. In Taiwan, less than two percent of the population is fully vaccinated, while only 14 percent is fully vaccinated in South Korea. In Japan, which undertook a massive effort to increase vaccination prior to the start of the Olympics, only 32 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. This figure is much lower among those under the age of 65, and the majority of hospitalizations are now among individuals in their 40s and 50s.