Holidays bring Covid outbreaks to Southeast Asia

By Hoang Phong   April 17, 2023 | 05:23 pm PT
Holidays bring Covid outbreaks to Southeast Asia
People play with water as they celebrate the Songkran holiday which marks the Thai New Year in Bangkok, Thailand, April 13. Photo by Reuters
Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have reported spikes in daily Covid infections as traditional Southeast Asian holiday celebrations herald the newest wave of the pandemic to hit the region.

Thailand’s Department of Disease Control on Sunday predicted the Covid-19 caseload would continue to rise during the lead up to the Thai New Year Songkran Festival April (13-17) thanks to an expected surge in holiday travel, Bangkok Post reported.

Between April 9-15, 435 new Covid patients were admitted into hospitals for treatment, an average of 62 per day, or 2.5 times higher than the previous week. Of them, 30 had lung inflammation and 19 were put on ventilation, an increase of 58% and 36% respectively.

The department also announced that the number of cases during the festival was likely to jump as people are no longer required to take Covid tests before joining activities and fewer people are wearing masks outdoors.

The number of daily infections in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore is also expected to rise during the Hari Raya festival, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month and brings an influx of people traveling to their hometowns for family reunions.

Indonesia has reported more than 900 cases a day since April 11, including two imported cases of XBB.1.16, a new strain causing the current outbreak in Asia, according to Jakarta Post.

President Joko Widodo urged all returnees to complete their Covid-19 vaccinations, the report said. With most restrictions lifted, about 120 million Indonesians are expected to flock to the streets during the festival beginning Saturday.

Malaysia has also harbored a new wave of Covid-19 infections, with the number of cases climbing steeply ahead of Hari Raya, The Straits Times reported.

According to Malaysian Health Ministry data, the number of cases rose 87.5% in the 14 days before April 8, while hospitalizations in the same period rose 30.5%. Covid deaths also rose 25%.

Additionally, Singapore has warned of another new Covid-19 wave as the city-state’s estimated number of daily infections rose from about 1,400 a month ago to 4,000 last week.

In Vietnam, a steep climb in the number of daily infections over the past week prompted the Ministry of Health to warn of the possibility of another new outbreak during the five-day holiday break celebrating Reunification Day and Labor Day (April 29-May 3).

Most Southeast Asian tourism sectors have been recovering spiritedly after the lifting of Covid restrictions and the reopening of borders last year.

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