Image Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies
By David Rising and Eileen Ng
Indonesia has converted almost all oxygen production to medical applications just to meet the demands of COVID-19 patients who are suffering from breathing. Malaysia’s flooded hospitals had to rely on treating patients on the floor. And in Myanmar’s largest city, graveyard workers work day and night to keep up with the demanding demand for new cremations and burials.
Images of a corpse burning outdoors at the peak of a pandemic in India terrorized the world in May, but in the past two weeks, all three Southeast Asian countries have been one of India’s new coronavirus waves. It has exceeded the peak per capita mortality rate. Supported by a powerful delta variant, it enhances grip in the region.
Deaths have followed a record number of new cases reported in countries across the region, health care systems are struggling to deal with, and governments are struggling to implement new restrictions to slow their spread.
When Eric Lamb tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to Selangor, Malaysia, the center of Malaysia’s outbreak on June 17, the corridor of a government facility was already a bed with no room left in the ward. It was crowded with patients.
The situation was still better than some other hospitals in Selangor, Malaysia’s wealthiest and most populous state. There were no free beds and patients were reported to have been treated on the floor or on stretchers. Since then, the government has added more beds and converted more wards for COVID-19 patients.
Lam, 38, recalled hearing a machine beeping for two hours in a row before the nurse turned it off during the three weeks at the hospital. He later learned that the patient had died.
A variety of factors have contributed to the region’s recent surge, including people tired of pandemics and neglecting precautions, low immunization rates, and the emergence of delta variants of the first virus detected in India. , Abhishek Rimal said. , Malaysia-based Asia-Pacific Emergency Medical Coordinator for the Red Cross.
“The measures taken by each country will reduce the number of cases in the coming weeks as people follow the basics of washing hands, wearing masks, keeping distance and vaccination,” he said.
But so far, Malaysia’s national blockade has not reduced daily infection rates. In a country of about 32 million people, the number of cases per day exceeded 10,000 for the first time on July 13, and has remained there ever since.
Immunization rates remain low, but are on the rise, with nearly 15% of the population fully vaccinated and the government hopes to receive a majority of vaccinations by the end of the year.
Doctors and nurses have been working tirelessly to catch up, and Ram was one of the lucky ones.
After his condition first deteriorated, he was placed on a ventilator in a full-capacity ICU unit and slowly recovered. He was discharged two weeks ago.
However, he lost his father and brother-in-law to the virus, leaving another brother on the ICU ventilator.
“I feel reborn and given a second chance to live,” he said.
India has a huge population of about 1.4 billion and the total number of deaths from COVID-19 remains higher than in Southeast Asian countries. However, according to the online scientific publication Our World in Data, India’s seven-day COVID-19 average death toll per million people peaked at 3.04 in May and continues to decline.
Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia have shown sharp growth since late June, with Wednesday’s seven-day average reaching 4.37, 4.29 and 4.14 per million, respectively. Both coronavirus cases and deaths have increased significantly in Cambodia and Thailand, but so far the 7-day rate per million has been kept low at 1.55 and 1.38, respectively.
This increase is particularly alarming, although it is higher in other countries, but for regions where numbers were widely kept low in the early days of the pandemic.
Learning from India’s experience, most countries are responding relatively quickly to new restrictions on delaying the virus to meet the needs of a rapidly growing number of people hospitalized for severe illness, Rimaru said. Stated.
In a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur, “People in the area are watching it in front of them, and there are 400,000 cases a day in India, and they really don’t want to be repeated here, so be cautious. “.
However, these measures have taken time to achieve the desired effects, and countries are currently struggling to deal with them.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country with a population of about 270 million, reported 1,383 deaths on Wednesday, the worst day since the pandemic began.
By mid-June, the number of cases per day was about 8,000, but then began to surge, with more than 50,000 new infections peaking daily last week. Due to the low testing rate in Indonesia, the actual number of new cases is likely to be much higher.
As the hospitals there began to run out of oxygen, the government intervened and ordered manufacturers to shift most of their production from industrial purposes and devote 25% to 90% to medical oxygen.
Prior to the current crisis, the country needed 400 tonnes of medical oxygen per day. According to Deputy Health Minister Dante Saxono, the surge in COVID-19 cases has led to a five-fold increase in daily usage to over 2,000 tonnes.
Oxygen production is now sufficient, but Leah Partaxma, secretary general of the Indonesian Hospital Association, said there were distribution issues and some hospitals were still in short supply.
In Indonesia, about 14% of the population has been vaccinated at least once, mainly in China’s Sinovac.
Despite growing concern that Sinovac is less effective against delta variants, both Indonesia and Thailand are planning booster shots of other vaccines for Sinovac-immunized healthcare professionals.
In Myanmar, the pandemic lags behind the seize of military power in February, causing a wave of protests and fierce political conflicts that destroyed the public health system.
In the last few weeks when testing and reporting of COVID-19 cases began to recover, it became clear that a new wave of virus, beginning in mid-May, was rapidly increasing cases and mortality.
Since the beginning of July, its mortality rate has risen almost straightforwardly, and it is widely believed that both cases and deaths are seriously underreported.
“The situation will be in the coming weeks due to the already distressed health care system, which has little testing capacity, a small number of vaccinated countries, a widespread shortage of oxygen and other medicines, and growing tensions. It is expected to get worse in the coming months. ” A member of the ASEAN Human Rights Parliament, a regional advocacy group.
“On the other hand, the confiscation of military junta oxygen, the attacks on health workers and facilities since the coup, and the lack of confidence in the services they provide, can turn the crisis into a disaster.”
On Tuesday, the government reported 5,860 new cases and 286 new deaths. There are no definitive figures for vaccination, but the number of doses available suggests that about 3% of the population may have been vaccinated twice.
Officials this week opposed social media posts that Yangon’s graveyard was overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the number of deaths, inadvertently claiming that hospitals were flooded and many were dead at home. confirmed.
Cho Tun Aung, head of the cemetery oversight department, told the military-run Myawaddy TV News on Monday that 350 staff to ensure proper cremation and burial of people in seven major cemeteries in Yangon. Said he had been working in three shifts since July 8.
He said workers cremated and buried more than 1,200 people on Sunday alone. Among them are 1,065 people who died at COVID-19’s home and 169 people who died at the hospital.
“We work in three shifts, day and night, to intern the dead,” he said. “It’s clear that it’s not as problematic as posting on Facebook.”
Report of rise from Bangkok. Associated Press writers Edna Tarigan and Niniek Karmini from Jakarta, Indonesia, and Grant Peck from Bangkok contributed to this report.
Source: Associated Press