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Asia keeps omicron at bay, but a surge may be inevitable

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Passengers wearing protective face masks as they sit in social distancing inside a train leaving a station in Jakarta, Indonesia.

TAIWAN: Much of Asia has largely managed to keep omicron at bay even as the variant rages in other parts of the world, but the region that is home to most of the globe’s population is bracing for what may be an inevitable surge.

Strict quarantine rules for arrivals and widespread mask-wearing have helped slow the spread of the highly contagious variant in Asia.

Countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Thailand quickly reinstated entry and quarantine restrictions in recent weeks after relaxing them in the fall. But cases are mounting, and experts say the next few months will be critical.

Those fears have been amplified by doubts about the effectiveness of the Chinese-made vaccines used in China and much of the developing world.

Once the pace picks up, its upsurge would be extremely fast,” said Dr.Shigeru Omi, a top medical adviser to Japan’s government.

In India, which has been getting back to normal after a devastating COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, omicron is once again raising fears, with more than 700 cases reported in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people.

Australia is already dealing with multiple COVID-19 surges, with a state leader saying on Wednesday that omicron is moving too quickly.

“Elsewhere, Thailand has topped 700 cases, South Korea has more than 500 and Japan, over 300. China, which has some of the strictest virus controls in the world, has reported at least eight. Only four cases have been reported in the Philippines, where people flocked to shopping malls ahead of Christmas and to Mass in the biggest Roman Catholic nation in Asia.

Some hospitals have even begun dismantling COVID-19 wards in a move experts say could prove to be premature.


Friday, December 31, 2021 – 01:00

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