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Delta outbreak: Asia-Pacific countries reimpose stringent measures

By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: RPN Radio

Stricter COVID-19 containment measures are once again announced by various national governments across the Asia-Pacific, from Israel to Australia, due to the threats brought upon by the more infectious Delta variant.

First identified in India, it has now reached about 96 countries, doubling the challenge faced by countries with low vaccination rates, especially in Asia, where hundreds of millions are still left without a single dose, causing them to be more susceptible to the strain.

However, even countries with high immunization rates, such as Israel and Singapore, are reimposing tighter measures to combat possible surges from the variant, which is more likely to resist any shielding from current vaccines.

According to the New York Times, the Delta variant is as contagious as chicken pox and could cause severe illness, as it cites from an internal document from the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Meanwhile, countries initially known for their successful containment efforts, such as Australia, Japan, and Vietnam, are now experiencing record-high cases due to low immunization performance as well as higher mobility by the public.

Since stringent reimpositions began five weeks ago, Sydney residents are now required to undergo mandatory testing as the Australian city faces another lockdown.

“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,” Australian epidemiologist Dicky Budiman from Griffith University told Reuters.

Japan, while it currently hosts the already postponed 2020 Summer Olympics, is now proposing states of emergency in three prefectures near host cities Tokyo and Osaka up until the end of August, as fears of a peak is still yet to come from an “extremely severe situation,” said Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.

Amid successfully containing the spread last year, Vietnam, has also seen record daily increases in positive cases since late April, with a worrying trend seen across cities at a “very complicated manner,” said Vietnamese Health Minister Nguyễn Thanh Long.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a plan was announced on Friday on putting Metro Manila back into an enhanced community quarantine for two weeks to prepare the health care system in facing possible upticks of cases by the variant.

In questions regarding fully vaccinated people, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that they can still carry the same viral load as the unvaccinated would, which means that they may still become vessels of transmission.