sunny.png
Saturday July 31st, 2021 7:40AM

Death rates soar in Southeast Asia as virus wave spreads

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Indonesia has converted nearly its entire oxygen production to medical use just to meet the demand from COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe. Overflowing hospitals in Malaysia had to resort to treating patients on the floor. And in Myanmar’s largest city, graveyard workers have been laboring day and night to keep up with the grim demand for new cremations and burials.

Images of bodies burning in open-air pyres during the peak of the pandemic in India horrified the world in May, but in the last two weeks the three Southeast Asian nations have now all surpassed India’s peak per capita death rate as a new coronavirus wave, fueled by the virulent delta variant, tightens its grip on the region.

The deaths have followed record numbers of new cases being reported in countries across the region which have left health care systems struggling to cope and governments scrambling to implement new restrictions to try to slow the spread.

When Eric Lam tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized on June 17 in the Malaysian state of Selangor, the center of the country’s outbreak, the corridors of the government facility were already crowded with patients on beds with no room left in the wards.

The situation was still better than in some other hospitals in Selangor, Malaysia’s richest and most populous state, where there were no free beds at all and patients were reportedly treated on floors or on stretchers. The government has since added more hospital beds and converted more wards for COVID-19 patients.

Lam, 38, recalled once during his three weeks in the hospital hearing a machine beeping continuously for two hours before a nurse came to turn it off; he later learned the patient had died.

A variety of factors have contributed to the recent surge in the region, including people growing weary of the pandemic and letting precautions slip, low vaccination rates and the emergence of the delta variant of the virus, which was first detected in India, said Abhishek Rimal, the Asia-Pacific emergency health coordinator for the Red Cross, who is based in Malaysia.

“With the measures that countries are taking, if people follow the basics of washing the hands, wearing the masks, keeping distance and getting vaccinated, we will be seeing a decline in cases in the next couple of weeks from now,” he said.

So far, however, Malaysia’s national lockdown measures have not brought down the daily rate of infections. The country of some 32 million saw daily cases rise above 10,000 on July 13 for the first time and they have stayed there since.

The vaccination rate remains low but has been picking up, with nearly 15% of the population now fully inoculated and the government hoping to have a majority vaccinated by year's end.

Doctors and nurses have been working tirelessly to try to keep up, and Lam was one of the fortunate ones.

After his condition initially deteriorated, he was put on a ventilator in an ICU unit filled to capacity and slowly recovered. He was discharged two weeks ago.

But he lost his father and brother-in-law to the virus, and another brother remains on a ventilator in the ICU.

“I feel I have been reborn and given a second chance to live,” he said.

With India’s massive population of nearly 1.4 billion people, its total number of COVID-19 fatalities remains higher than the countries in Southeast Asia. But India’s 7-day rolling average of COVID-19 deaths per million peaked at 3.04 in May, according to the online scientific publication Our World in Data, and continues to decline.

Indonesia, Myanmar, and Malaysia have been showing sharp increases since late June and their seven-day averages hit 4.37, 4.29 and 4.14 per million, respectively, on Wednesday. Cambodia and Thailand have also seen strong increases in both coronavirus cases and deaths, but have thus far held the seven-day rate per million people to a lower 1.55 and 1.38, respectively.

Individual countries elsewhere have higher rates, but the increases are particularly alarming for a region that widely kept numbers low early in the pandemic.

With the Indian experience as a lesson, most countries have reacted relatively quickly with new restrictions to slow the virus, and to try to meet the needs of the burgeoning number of people hospitalized with severe illnesses, Rimal said.

“People in this region are cautious, because they have seen it right in front of them — 400,000 cases a day in India — and they really don’t want it to repeat here,” he said in a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur.

But those measures take time to achieve the desired effect, and right now countries are struggling to cope.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation with some 270 million people, reported 1,449 deaths on Thursday, its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic.

Daily cases through about mid-June had been about 8,000, but then began to spike and peaked last week with more than 50,000 new infections each day. Because Indonesia’s testing rate is low, the actual number of new cases is thought to be much higher.

As hospitals there began to run out of oxygen, the government stepped in and ordered manufacturers to shift most production from industrial purposes and dedicate 90% to medical oxygen, up from 25%.

Before the current crisis, the country needed 400 tons of oxygen for medical use per day; with the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, daily use has increased fivefold to more than 2,000 tons, according to Deputy Health Minister Dante Saksono.

Though the production of oxygen is now sufficient, Lia Partakusuma, secretary general of Indonesia’s Hospital Association, said there were problems with distribution so some hospitals are still facing shortages.

In Indonesia, about 14% of of the population has had at least one vaccine dose, primarily China’s Sinovac.

There are growing concerns that Sinovac is less effective against the delta variant, however, and both Indonesia and Thailand are planning booster shots of other vaccines for their Sinovac-immunized health workers.

In Myanmar, the pandemic had taken backseat to the military's power seizure in February, which set off a wave of protests and violent political conflict that devastated the public health system.

Only in recent weeks, as testing and reporting of COVID-19 cases has started recovering, has it become clear that a new wave of the virus beginning in mid-May is pushing cases and deaths rapidly higher.

Since the start of July its death rate has been climbing almost straight up, and both cases and fatalities are widely believed to be seriously underreported.

“With little testing capacity, low numbers in the country vaccinated, widespread shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies, and an already beleaguered health care system under increasing strain, the situation is expected to get increasingly worse in the coming weeks and months,” said ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, a regional advocacy group.

“Meanwhile, the junta’s confiscation of oxygen, attacks on health care workers and facilities since the coup, and the lack of trust in any services they provide by the majority of the population, risks turning a crisis into a disaster.”

On Thursday, the government reported 6,701 new cases and 319 new deaths. There are no solid figures on vaccinations, but from the number of doses that have been available, it's thought that about 3% of the population could have received two shots.

Officials this week pushed back at social media postings that cemeteries in Yangon were overwhelmed and could not keep up with the number of dead, inadvertently confirming claims that hospitals were swamped and many people were dying at home.

Cho Tun Aung, head of the department that oversees the cemeteries told military-run Myawaddy TV news on Monday that 350 staff members had been working three shifts since July 8 to ensure proper cremations and burials of people at Yangon’s seven major cemeteries.

He said workers had cremated and buried more than 1,200 people on Sunday alone, including 1,065 who had died at home of COVID-19 and 169 who had died in hospitals.

“We are working in three shifts day and night to inter the dead,” he said. “It is clear that there is no problem like the posts on Facebook.”

___

Rising reported from Bangkok. Associated Press writers Edna Tarigan and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP World News, AP Business
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
AP source: Texas, Oklahoma talk to SEC about joining league
Texas and Oklahoma have had discussions with the Southeastern Conference about leaving the Big 12
12:41AM ( 9 minutes ago )
China 'shocked' by WHO plan for COVID-19 origins study
A senior Chinese health official says China cannot accept the World Health Organization’s plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19
12:33AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Death rates soar in Southeast Asia as virus wave spreads
Images of bodies burning in open-air pyres during the peak of the pandemic in India horrified the world in May, but in the last two weeks three Southeast Asian nations have surpassed India’s peak per capita death rate as a new coronavirus wave tightens its grip on the region
12:33AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Western wildfires: California blaze crosses into Nevada
A Northern California wildfire has crossed into Nevada, prompting new evacuation orders, but better weather is helping crews battling the nation’s largest blaze in southern Oregon
12:00AM ( 50 minutes ago )
The Latest: US beats Canada 1-0 for 2-0 start in softball
The United States has beat Canada 1-0 for a 2-0 start in Olympic softball
11:40PM ( 1 hour ago )
Judge: $150M initially for victims in Florida condo collapse
A judge says victims and families who suffered losses in the collapse of a 12-story oceanfront Florida condominium will get a minimum of $150 million in compensation initially
11:25PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
The Latest: Ceremony director out over Holocaust joke
The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee has fired the director of the opening ceremony because of a Holocaust joke he made during a comedy show in 1998
11:20PM ( 1 hour ago )
Weinstein pleads not guilty to sexual assaults in California
Harvey Weinstein has pleaded not guilty in a Los Angeles courtroom to four counts of rape and seven other sexual assault counts
11:08PM ( 1 hour ago )
Biden says getting vaccinated 'gigantically important'
President Joe Biden is expressing pointed frustration over the slowing COVID-19 vaccination rate in the U.S. In a TV town hall in Cincinnati, Biden pleaded that it’s “gigantically important” for Americans to step up and get inoculated against the virus as it surges once again
10:55PM ( 1 hour ago )
Top General short headlines
Thailand to join COVAX, acknowledging low vaccine supply
The head of Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute has apologized for the country’s slow and inadequate rollout of coronavirus vaccines, promising it will join the U.N.-backed COVAX program to receive supplies from its pool of donated vaccines next year
9:29PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: S Korea has new daily high for 2nd day in a row
South Korea is reporting 1,842 newly confirmed coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hours — setting a new pandemic single-day record for the second straight day
9:14PM ( 3 hours ago )
Federal judges block transgender restrictions in 2 states
Federal judges have temporarily blocked new laws in Arkansas and West Virginia restricting transgender people's rights
8:07PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Health
No. 2 US diplomat Sherman to visit China as tensions soar
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to China on a visit that comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing soar
11:13PM ( 1 hour ago )
4 journalists at shut Hong Kong paper charged with collusion
Hong Kong police have charged two editors and two editorial writers at a pro-democracy newspaper with collusion weeks after the outlet was forced to close and its assets were frozen
9:12PM ( 3 hours ago )
Cuba: US protest narrative paving way for military incursion
Cuba is criticizing the United States and President Joe Biden for a series of statements by senior officials after the unprecedented protests on the island last week, accusing the U.S. government of seeking to justify a military intervention
8:45PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP World News
Dems hit McConnell, who says GOP won't back debt limit boost
Senate Democrats are accusing Republicans of a cynical ploy that would damage the government’s credit rating and the economy
12:01AM ( 49 minutes ago )
Stocks climb on Wall St gains as company earnings roll in
Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher for a second day as optimism about a global economic recovery appears to be outweighing concern over rising coronavirus cases
12:00AM ( 50 minutes ago )
PG&E will spend at least $15 billion burying power lines
Pacific Gas & Electric plans to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines in an effort to prevent its fraying grid from sparking wildfires when electrical equipment collides with millions of trees and other vegetation
9:41PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
AP source: Texas, Oklahoma talk to SEC about joining league
Texas and Oklahoma have had discussions with the Southeastern Conference about leaving the Big 12
12:41AM ( 10 minutes ago )
China 'shocked' by WHO plan for COVID-19 origins study
A senior Chinese health official says China cannot accept the World Health Organization’s plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19
12:33AM ( 17 minutes ago )
The Latest: 2 more Olympic athletes test positive in Tokyo
Four more residents of the Olympic Village, including two athletes, have tested positive for COVID-19
12:18AM ( 32 minutes ago )
White Sox rookie catcher Mercedes says he’s leaving baseball
Yermín Mercedes, the surprising rookie who helped carry the Chicago White Sox with his booming bat early in the season and got sent to the minors following a prolonged slump, says he is stepping away from baseball
12:15AM ( 35 minutes ago )
Hong Kong police arrest 5 trade union members for sedition
Hong Kong police have arrested five trade union members and a court has denied bail for four editors and journalists on charges of endangering national security, part of a widening crackdown on dissent in the city
12:12AM ( 38 minutes ago )