Our Southeast Asia bureau chief breaks down the region’s pandemic reality.
By Amelia Nierenberg
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A look into Southeast Asia
The countries of Southeast Asia largely escaped the worst of the coronavirus pandemic during its first year. But now, as more infectious variants take hold, the region is suffering from new outbreaks and lockdowns and lags the rest of the world in vaccinations.
“As the West is coming out if it, we’re probably looking at months and months of more deaths and spiraling outbreaks,” Hannah Beech, the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The Times, told me.
As the Delta variant rolls across the globe, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines in particular are facing frightening waves.
“Hospital wards in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, are again full,” Hannah said. “There are not enough ventilators. People who were involved in the fight against Covid — frontline medical workers and others — are dying again.”
And they are not vaccinating fast enough to combat the spread. The region’s middle-income countries “kind of fell through the cracks,” Hannah said. “It wasn’t necessarily easy or economically advantageous for them to join Covax, the global vaccine-sharing initiative. But they weren’t rich enough to secure vaccines from Western countries.”
Last year, AstraZeneca designated Thailand as the regional hub for its vaccine and awarded a manufacturing contract to Siam Bioscience, a pharmaceutical firm controlled by the king of Thailand, which had no experience making vaccines.
Then, earlier this month, many hospitals in Thailand canceled vaccine appointments and the governments of Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan scaled back their vaccine programs because of what they said were lower-than-expected shipments from Thailand. (Thailand disputed the claims.)
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