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COVID-19

South Asia crosses 30 million COVID-19 cases as India battles second wave

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(Last Updated On: May 28, 2021)

Coronavirus infections in the South Asia region surpassed 30 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally of official data, led by India which is struggling with a second COVID-19 wave and a vaccine shortage across the region.

India, the second most-populous country in the world, this month recorded its highest COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began last year, accounting for just over a third of the overall total.

The South Asia region – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka – accounts for 18% of global cases and almost 10% of deaths. But there is growing suspicion that official tallies of infections and deaths are not reflecting the true extent of the problem.

This month, India opened its coronavirus vaccination campaign to everyone aged 18 or older. However, it has not been able to meet vaccine demand despite being one of the biggest vaccine producers in the world.

India has been inoculating its people with the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine produced locally at the Serum Institute of India (SII), Covaxin made by local firm Bharat Biotech and has begun rolling out Russia’s Sputnik V.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced mounting criticism for the failure to secure vaccines as only about 3% of India’s 1.3 billion population has been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate among the 10 countries with the most cases.

To meet domestic demand, India temporarily halted vaccine exports in March after donating or selling more than 66 million doses. The halt has left countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and many in Africa scrambling for alternate supplies.

However, India is still facing a vaccine shortage and several of its state governments, and even cities such as Mumbai, have launched global tenders or sought expressions of interest from firms such as Pfizer (PFE.N), Moderna (MRNA.O) and Johnson and Johnson (JNJ.N) for urgent supplies.

India’s official tally of daily coronavirus infections has been falling in the past few days, offering hope that its second wave is ebbing.

But there are serious concerns that many new infections are not being reported, largely due to a dearth of testing in the countryside.

As of Friday, India has reported nearly 27.6 million cases and 318,895 deaths. (Graphic on global cases and deaths)

Since India is unlikely to resume major exports of COVID-19 vaccines until October, other South Asia countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh are making diplomatic efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccines to prop up their faltering inoculation drives as their stocks run out.

India’s western neighbour Pakistan, with purchases and donations from China and allocations from the World Health Organisation and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, has now secured more than 18 million doses. On Wednesday, Pakistan opened its vaccination campaign to everyone aged 19 or older.

At least 219.17 million vaccine doses have been administered in southern Asia by Friday, according to figures from Our World in Data.

COVID-19

Afghanistan records its highest daily death toll so far from COVID

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(Last Updated On: June 13, 2021)

The Ministry of Public Health on Sunday recorded 85 deaths from COVID-19 and registered another 1,597 new cases out of 4,587 people tested in the past 24 hours.

The record of 85 deaths in terms of daily coronavirus statistics in the country is unprecedented so far, the ministry said.

The previous highest recorded number was 38 – during the first wave.

Afghanistan is currently experiencing its third wave.

According to the ministry, another 471 patients have recovered during this 24 hour period.

The ministry said at the moment the total number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan increased to 91,458.

Meanwhile the total deaths so far is 3,612 and 61,067 patients in total have recovered.

Doctors said the third wave of the virus in Afghanistan is affecting children, young people and the elderly, but the virus has claimed the lives of mostly elderly people.

Meanwhile, a shipment of 700,000 doses of vaccines arrived from China on Friday.

“Corona vaccine packages from China have so far been delivered to 13 provinces and will soon be sent to other provinces,” said Waheed Majroh, acting health minister.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Marjoh said that the third wave of coronavirus is still spreading rapidly, and statistics from the last two weeks show that the number of positive cases and deaths caused by the virus has risen sharply.

“Closure of schools, universities, training courses, wedding halls, sports centers, swimming pools and other gathering places is effective in reducing the cases of coronavirus, but it takes one to two weeks to prove it,” Majroh added.

The ministry also said that the process of implementing the vaccine has begun in more than 13 provinces in the country.

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNMA) announced on Saturday that the European Union is also providing 480,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile the acting minister announced on Saturday that a new oxygen generator facility has been activated at the Afghan-Japan hospital in Kabul.

Majroh said that in a day or two, 150 beds in this hospital will be connected to the central oxygen system.

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Rights watchdog warns of looming COVID crisis

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(Last Updated On: June 12, 2021)

Amnesty International has called on the Afghan government to address oxygen shortages and procure an adequate amount of COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical supplies with the support of the international community.

“Afghanistan’s COVID-19 case numbers have been steadily increasing and these latest figures are of grave concern. It’s clear that the country has been hit by the third wave of COVID-19 and without urgent international support to contain this surge, the situation could quickly spiral out of control, with existing shortages of life-saving supplies posing serious challenges,” said Zaman Sultani, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

The organization stated that Afghanistan’s COVID-19 case numbers have been steadily increasing and that these latest figures are of grave concern.

According to the Public Health Ministry (MoPH), 973 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total infections to 79,861 people in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, 67 COVID-19 patients have died in the same period, the ministry said.

Amnesty International’s Sultani stated: “At the same time, Afghanistan’s vaccination drive has also been held up due to supply shortages. We have seen a similar situation unfolding in Nepal and India and one of the main lessons is to learn from their mistakes and be prepared for the worst before it’s too late.”

Highlighting the lack of preparation by the Afghan government to fight the Coronavirus, Amnesty International said that “more than a year into the pandemic, the government’s emergency preparedness remains inadequate.”

According to the Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan currently has only around 2,000 ventilators and 1,063 hospital beds dedicated to treating patients with COVID-19 – this for 39 million people. According to MoPH, the country only has 1,500 ICU beds.

“The lack of emergency preparedness and the state of Afghanistan’s public health infrastructure means the country is not equipped to deal with the type of surge we have seen elsewhere in the region. Afghanistan must make diagnostics widely accessible to effectively detect outbreaks and proactively address an imminent outbreak of cases,” said Sultani.

The organization noted that the current wave poses an even greater risk of infection for Afghanistan’s four million internally displaced people (IDPs), who are living in overcrowded conditions, with insufficient access to water, sanitation, and health facilities.

“During this crisis, the Afghan government must ensure that IDPs can access healthcare, sanitation, and clean water and develop a plan that prioritizes vaccinating IDPs, whose living conditions leave them extremely vulnerable to a highly infectious virus like COVID-19,” Sultani added.

This comes as a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrived in Kabul on Saturday amid the surge in infections, the Presidential Palace (ARG) said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Chinese government has donated 700,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines to Afghanistan.

The much-needed vaccines comes as the country has been hit by a third wave of the virus, which has raised concerns among officials.

Addressing a ceremony marking the arrival of the vaccines, President Ashraf Ghani stated “vaccines are a gift of life, and we thank China for its assistance.”

Chinese Ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu, meanwhile, assured Ghani of China’s further support to Afghanistan to fight the pandemic.

Afghanistan, so far, has administered 968,000 doses of AstraZeneca, which were donated by the Indian government, and COVAX.

The MoPH stated that 280,000 members of Afghan security forces, more than 120,000 doctors and health workers, and 560,000 civilians have been vaccinated so far.

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COVID-19

Kabul takes delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from China

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(Last Updated On: June 12, 2021)

A batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrived in Kabul amid a surge in infections, the Presidential Palace (ARG) said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Chinese government has donated 700,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines to Afghanistan.

The much-needed vaccines come as the country has been hit by a third wave of the virus, which has raised concerns among officials.

Addressing a ceremony marking the arrival of the vaccines, President Ashraf Ghani stated “vaccines are a gift of life, and we thank China for its assistance.”

Chinese Ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu, meanwhile, assured Ghani of China’s further support to Afghanistan to fight the pandemic.

Afghanistan, so far, has administered 968,000 doses of AstraZeneca, which were donated by the Indian government, and COVAX.

The MoPH stated that 280,000 members of Afghan security forces, more than 120,000 doctors and health workers, and 560,000 civilians have been vaccinated so far.

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