Malaysia has begun a tough nationwide lockdown to battle a worsening coronavirus outbreak, AFP reports, as countries across Southeast Asia struggle with a resurgence in cases driven by infectious variants.
Much of the region escaped the pandemic’s first wave last year relatively unscathed by rapidly closing borders and introducing curbs.
But countries from Thailand to Vietnam are being hammered by fresh surges, with efforts to quell outbreaks hampered by slow vaccine rollouts and populations weary of restrictions.
Malaysia is among the worst hit. Of almost 2,800 deaths from Covid-19 recorded in the country of 32 million since the start of the pandemic, over 40 percent were in May alone.
More than 570,000 infections have been reported, with a string of new daily records last week.
As well as variants, the outbreak has been fanned by gatherings in the Muslim-majority country during the holy month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday, often in defiance of coronavirus rules.
Under what authorities have termed a “total lockdown” in force from Tuesday, only essential businesses – such as supermarkets and medical clinics – can operate, people can only go outside for necessities, and most schools are closed.
Travel between most parts of the country had already been banned for months.
Just following up on Professor Ravi Gupta’s words there with a quick check on the UK government’s own coronavirus dashboard, and we can see that with data in from 31 May now, that the rolling 7 day averages of cases, deaths and hospitalisations are all up – all admittedly from a baseline much lower than was in the earlier peak of the second wave of the virus. You can have look for yourself here.
A leading scientific adviser to the UK government has repeated calls to delay the 21 June lifting of restrictions by “a few weeks”, warning the coronavirus’s ability to adapt in the face of vaccines has still left the UK in a vulnerable position.
Prof Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the increased socialisation which has followed last month’s phase of restriction lifting could be expected to lead to “quite a lot” of hospital admissions.
PA Media reports that he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that while the nation had performed “amazingly well” in its vaccination programme, it was still too early “to put the vaccine straight up against the virus”.
Gupta said a delay of a few weeks to the 21 June target could have a significant impact on Britain’s battle against the pandemic, and recommended it should be made clear to the public that it would be a temporary measure based on recent events, chiefly the emergence of the newly-designated “Delta variant”, which we had previously been calling the B.1.617.2 strain of the virus or the variant that was first detected in India.
“Even a month delay could have a big impact on the eventual outcome of this,” said Prof Gupta.
He continued: “As long as it’s clear to people this is not an unlimited extension of the lockdown but actually just a reassessment, that would be realistic.
“Because we didn’t plan for the 617.2 variant when the initial roadmap was made, and actually things have gone really well except for the fact that we have this new variant to complicate things.
“We must remember this is a virus that does adapt, and faced with vaccines it will eventually start to make mutations to avoid them even further, and then we could be in an even more precarious situation after that.”
Vietnam is seeking to buy Covid-19 vaccine production technology and wants to build a plant to supply the Covax programme, Reuters reports, as the country tries to step up vaccinations to stem a new outbreak of infections.
India and South Africa are among developing countries that have been pushing for an intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines. But even with a surprise US shift last month to support a waiver World Trade Organization talks on the issue on Monday failed to achieve a breakthrough.
“Vietnam would build the plant and would like to receive the patent so it could supply vaccines to Covax, to other countries as well as to Vietnam,” the health ministry said in a statement, following a meeting with Covax representatives overnight.
India has reported its lowest daily rise in new coronavirus infections since 8 April at 127,510 cases over the past 24 hours, while deaths rose by 2,795, Reuters reports.
The South Asian nation’s tally of infections now stands at 28.2 million, while the death toll has reached 331,895, health ministry data showed.
That’s it from me, Helen Livingstone, for today. I’m handing over to my colleague Martin Belam in London.
Here’s a quick roundup of what’s been happening so far:
Here’s a sobering, but important, feature by Guardian contributor V on the ways in which the pandemic has erased women’s rights and left them vulnerable to violence. She writes,
All over the world, patriarchy has taken full advantage of the virus to reclaim power – on the one hand, escalating the danger and violence to women, and on the other, stepping in as their supposed controller and protector.
And in more Australia-related Covid news, the country’s drug regulator is considering referring Covid vaccine misinformation posts to the federal police, after anti-vaccine campaigners targeted an MP who posted about getting the jab.
In response to a viral post of Labor backbencher Julian Hill receiving his vaccine, numerous users posted false material purportedly from the Therapeutic Goods Administration wrongly claiming Covid-19 vaccines have caused more than 200 deaths.
The figure they used was in fact the number of people who have died after receiving the vaccine, but apart from one case, none have been linked by the TGA to the vaccine.
The TGA told Guardian Australia the alleged posting of the death counter was “particularly concerning” and it would consider referring it to the federal police.
If you’re looking for something to listen to, the latest edition of Today in Focus is here! In it, our Tokyo correspondent Justin McCurry talks to Anushka Asthana about the widespread opposition to the Olympic Games in Japan and whether the movement to cancel them can overcome huge commercial interests.
Hello, and welcome to today’s coronavirus live news blog with me, Helen Livingstone.
Peru has revised its official Covid-19 death toll to 180,764, nearly triple the previous official figure of 69,342, following a government review that shows the severity of the outbreak in the country.
As new coronavirus variants continue to be discovered, the World Health Organisation has revealed new names, after the letters of the Greek alphabet, to simplify the discussion around the variants and avoid stigma.
And Australia’s drug regulator says it may refer anti-vaccination Facebook posts to federal police after anti-vaccine campaigners targeted an MP who posted about getting the jab.
Here’s a roundup of what’s been happening over the past 24 hours: