Rising alarm as infections surge . . .
In the past few weeks, several Southeast Asian countries have reported surges in their COVID-19 infection rates, which include the new highly transmissible variants. Since early April, Thailand has been battling a spike in cases, reporting a new daily record of 31 COVID-19 deaths on Monday. In Cambodia, new infections reached 938 on May 4, also a new daily record. Meanwhile, in Laos, which had previously avoided the worst of the pandemic, infections hit the triple digits amid the biggest jump in cases so far. Although these reported spikes are nowhere near the crisis level in India, experts are concerned that the virus could wreak havoc if the situation is not brought under control.
Pandemic restrictions hurt the most vulnerable . . .
As Southeast Asia grapples with the worst outbreaks since the COVID-19 pandemic began, governments around the region have rushed to order lockdowns, shut down businesses, and close borders. In Cambodia, where restrictions are backed by punitive fines and jail terms, construction and garment factory workers are suffering the most from food shortages due to markets closing and aid being cut off from designated high-transmission areas. In Thailand, those living under precarious conditions, such as slum dwellers, struggle to access health-care services, while hotel-like hospitals have sprung up, offering a luxury quarantine for the ultra-rich.
Vietnam keeps an eye on neighbours . . .
Vietnam, which has become known for its successful handling of the pandemic, is keeping a close eye on surges in neighbouring countries as it deals with its own new cases after a month of zero community transmission. Despite intensified surveillance and authorities urging people to stay at home, vacationers flocked to beaches, night markets, and other tourist hotspots during last weekend’s four-day celebration of Reunification Day and Labour Day. Meanwhile, Vietnam has tightened its land borders, especially to target so-called illegal migrants, even though many of them have lived and travelled across the porous borders for decades.
- Al Jazeera: Mounting desperation in Cambodia amid COVID lockdown
- The Diplomat: COVID-19 stages another comeback in Vietnam
- South China Morning Post: The world is watching India’s coronavirus crisis but Asia’s developing nations are all at risk