Singapore begins vaccinating students to quell COVID-19 outbreaks as new variants wreak havoc elsewhere in Asia
Singapore is preparing to vaccinate students against COVID-19 after a wave of transmissions in schools and learning centers.
- Singapore to vaccinate students over 12 during June school holidays
- Malaysia ordered a “total lockdown” from today
- The death toll in Thailand has increased tenfold in two months
The city-state is among the first countries in the world to offer vaccines to adolescents before completing the vaccination of adults.
It comes as a sharp rise in coronavirus cases attributed to new variants in other Southeast Asian countries is leading to further restrictions, plant closures and attempts to rapidly scale up vaccination programs in the region.
Only wealthy Singapore has vaccination rates comparable to Western countries, with over 36% receiving at least one injection, but the emergence of cases of new variants there also prompted further closures last month.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday that efforts to reduce coronavirus infections were working.
As a result, he said, a restaurant eating ban and strict limits on social gatherings would be relaxed after June 13.
“Barring another super-spreader or a large cluster, we should be on the right track to bringing this epidemic under control,” Lee said.
The government imposed tighter controls in May after dozens of local coronavirus cases were linked to shopping malls, hospitals and the airport.
There had hardly been any earlier in the year.
Almost three-quarters of Singapore’s 760,000 elderly people have received at least one dose of the vaccine or have made an appointment.
Now the vaccines – which were offered to people aged 40 and over – are being rolled out to students over 12 as of today.
Mr Lee said health officials would take advantage of the June school vacation to vaccinate students.
“After the students, we will vaccinate the last remaining group, young adults aged 39 and under,” he said.
New variants are wreaking havoc
Meanwhile, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Malaysia has exceeded India’s per capita, while the total number of cases in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and East Timor has more that doubled last month.
The death toll in Thailand has increased tenfold in two months – although just over 1,000, it was still low by global standards.
Adding to concerns, Vietnamese officials have revealed the discovery over the weekend of a “very dangerous” combination of Indian and British COVID-19 variants, which is spreading rapidly by air.
“COVID-19 infection rates are very alarming in Southeast Asian countries,” Alexander Matheou, Asia-Pacific director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies, told Reuters -Red.
The Philippines recorded its highest number of daily infections in four weeks on Friday.
Indonesia’s seven-day average for new cases reached its highest level in more than two months on Sunday.
A wave of cases have also been reported near Myanmar’s Indian border – raising concerns about a health system that has collapsed since the February 1 coup.
In the absence of vaccines, containment is the priority.
Vietnam crushed previous waves – and the country of 98 million people still suffered fewer than 50 deaths – but new distancing measures began Monday at its Ho Chin Minh City business center.
In the north of the country, factories supplying global technology companies such as Apple and Samsung are operating below capacity due to outbreaks, industry sources said.
Thailand’s largest food company, Charoen Pokphand Foods, shut down a poultry factory for five days after workers tested positive for COVID-19. Thousands more cases have been discovered in factories, construction sites and prisons.
As Malaysia has ordered a “total lockdown” from today to stem the spread, officials have said some factories may continue to operate at reduced capacity.
Health officials are also closely monitoring any resurgence in Indonesia and the Philippines, the two most populous countries in the region, both of which were hit hard by the pandemic last year.
Slow vaccination rates
Malaysia has tried to step up its vaccination campaign, but less than 6% of people have received at least one dose of a vaccine – barely half the proportion in India.
Some Southeast Asian countries had placed less emphasis on purchasing vaccines than Western countries or simply could not afford to buy them and now have limited access.
“With a smaller segment of the population that is protected from vaccination, the vast majority of the population remains vulnerable,” said Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.
Further north, China and Taiwan exchanged more accusations on COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, with Beijing saying they shouldn’t be a political tool while Taiwan’s ruling party said China was the ” black hand “which prevented him from accessing vaccines internationally.
The two have clashed multiple times since the start of the pandemic, from China’s transparency about the spread of the virus to Taiwan’s lack of access to the World Health Organization, deepening already bad ties.
ABC / son