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Another wave of Covid has begun in Asia, and New Zealand is worried about the pressure on its hospitals

Another wave of Covid has begun in Asia, and New Zealand is worried about the pressure on its hospitals

A new wave of coronavirus infections is spreading rapidly across Asia, prompting people from New Zealand to Japan to take precautions to slow the outbreak and prevent health systems from collapsing.

The sudden rise in disease, caused mainly by the Omicron variant BA.4/5, presents another challenge for governments still grappling with the economic effects of previous waves of the pandemic while trying to avoid tightening or re-imposing unpopular restrictions.

New Zealand’s government announced Thursday that it will provide free masks and rapid antigen tests to the population in a bid to relieve pressure on a health system reeling from the spread of influenza in addition to the coronavirus due to the spread of the coronavirus. The typical southern hemisphere winter period at this time.

“There is no doubt that the surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, the worst flu season in recent times, and the lack of adequate staffing are putting healthcare workers and the entire healthcare system under severe stress.” – said Aicha Feral, Minister responsible for Covid-19.

In New Zealand, which has a population of 5.1 million, nearly 69,000 people are currently registered as infected. Among them, 765 patients are being treated in hospital, which has led to increased waiting times and cancellations of operations.

In Japan, the number of new coronavirus cases has returned to a level not seen since the beginning of the year. The government has urged people to be extra cautious regarding the upcoming long weekend and summer school holidays.

Japan reported nearly 95,000 cases on Wednesday, and a government spokesperson said the number of newly infected patients increased 2.14 times a week.

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“New cases are increasing in every prefecture in Japan and it appears to be spreading rapidly.” – said Health Minister Ziiguki Goto.

Tokyo has raised the alert level to the highest level.

“We will hold a working group meeting tomorrow to decide on the necessary measures for the summer, based on national data and expert opinions.” Tokyo Governor Goriko Koike said.

Like New Zealand, South Korea has been credited for handling the early stages of the pandemic, but by Wednesday the number of daily new cases had tripled in a week to more than 39,000.

Authorities and experts expect the number of daily new cases in South Korea to reach 200,000 by mid-August to the end of September, so they are trying to speed up the number of booster vaccines offered, but no new restrictions are planned.

Australia has warned that due to the rapid spread of Omicron BA.4/5 variants, the worst outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic to date is possible in the coming weeks. According to the authorities, millions of new infections could be expected, but strict restrictions were ruled out here too.

“We have moved on from this (…) we are not in an era of lockdown and the like” Federal Health Minister Mark Butler told Radio 2G on Thursday, suggesting Australians are considering working from home again.

The workload in Australian hospitals is already close to levels seen at the beginning of the year, during the last major Omicron epidemic, while the health system is under great pressure due to the spread of influenza as well as Covid cases.

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While the number of cases in Thailand is showing a downward trend, the number of infections in Indonesia has risen and reached a level not seen since March.

The number of new infections and hospital admissions in the Philippines remains low, but the government has warned that the number of cases could rise at least 20-fold by the end of the month.

The Manila government has urged as many people as possible to apply for the vaccine, as only a quarter of adults had received their first vaccination as of Tuesday, according to health ministry data.

In China in July, more than three hundred new Covid infections were reported per day, while in June that number was only seventy. Beijing’s strict “Dynamic Zero Covid” regulations help contain local outbreaks and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

Produced using Reuters coverage.
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