"Until a greater part of the population is inoculated, COVID-19 is here to stay and ready to pounce on those that ignore proven health protocols."
Southeast Asia as a region is the newest epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just like in many European nations now, four Southeast Asian nations are registering daily record spikes caused mainly by the Delta variant of the virus.
Indonesia, the nation with the most number of COVID-19 cases in the region, has seen a major spike in the last 30 days after managing the daily infection rate to below 20,000 for the most part of the year. Daily COVID-19 cases in our southern neighbor reached nearly 60,000 last week, blamed mainly on the more contagious Delta variant and the Muslim Idul Fitri holiday in mid-May. Millions of Indonesians celebrated the end of the Ramadan fasting by returning to their hometowns despite a government travel ban, and by visiting tourism spots.
The rise in COVID-19 cases in Malaysia and Thailand, meanwhile, was the most surprising. Malaysia and Thailand served as models in Asia for containing the spread of the pandemic. But loose border controls and laxer lockdown rules resulted in the current spike.
Malaysia posted 13,034 cases yesterday while Thailand recorded 13,655 to bring their respective total cases to 964,918 and 453,132. The surge in daily cases has prompted Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to impose harsh lockdown measures and curfews in their urban centers.
Vietnam was a paradigm in containing the pandemic in the region. It had few cases early in the year despite full economic activities. Unfortunately, the virus and the more virulent Delta variant found their way to infect an increasing number of Vietnamese. Vietnam tallied just 2,967 daily cases yesterday after they hit nearly 6,000 cases early this month.
The Philippines, on the other hand, registered a daily record spike of over 15,000 on April 2 this year before containing the rate to around 4,000 to 5,000 daily in June and July after the government implemented harsh lockdown measures.
The Philippines, just like its Southeast Asian neighbors, may take a few more months before it can curb the virus infection. The World Health Organization sees the Delta variant as the dominant strain over the next few months.
The vaccine provides the best solution to the COVID-19 spread. Until a greater part of the population is inoculated, COVID-19 is here to stay and ready to pounce on those that ignore proven health protocols.