Thailand and Indonesia Are Criticized For Easing COVID-19 Restrictions

Despite a drop in Covid-19 cases in Indonesia and Thailand, health experts say new infections could rise again because vaccination rates remain low.
Having contained the Coronavirus better than much of the world last year, Southeast Asia has turned into a global epicenter in recent months with the arrival of the virulent Delta variant.
While case numbers continue to rise fast in most of the region, Indonesia and Thailand, which have their largest economies, have started lifting curbs on dine-in restaurants and shopping malls to ease the economic pain of their lockdown.
Thailand reported 14,802 new cases on Wednesday, down 37% from its mid-August peak. Indonesia reported 10,534 new cases on Tuesday, down five times from its July peak.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rates of positive tests often exceed the WHO’s recommended 5%, which is a result of low vaccination rates and a lack of testing.
“We are definitely concerned about the reopening without meeting all the criteria,” Abhishek Rimal, Asia Pacific Emergency Health Coordinator at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Reuters.
Due to the Delta variant, which is highly transmissible, and the low vaccination rate, we may very well see a surge of Covid-19.
Indonesia recently recorded a positive test rate of 12%, while Thailand had a rate of 34%.
Tri Yunis Miko Wahyono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, said, “Surveillance is not so good, we still need to be careful.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Indonesia has recorded more than 4 million coronavirus cases and more than 133,000 deaths from Coronavirus-19. There have been 11,841 deaths and 1.2 million cases reported in Thailand.
Each of the two countries has a first vaccination rate of 30%, with Indonesia having 17% fully vaccinated and Thailand having 11%. Jakarta and Bangkok, their capitals, have much higher vaccination rates.
Some areas on Indonesia’s populous Java island allow restaurants to have a 50% dine-in capacity inside shopping malls, and malls can stay open until 9 p.m., while factories can operate at 100% capacity.
In Bangkok and 28 other provinces affected by severe outbreaks, dine-in restaurants are allowed to reopen at a capacity of 50%-75%, with hours capped at 8 p.m., just like shopping malls.
Orrapin Peenanee, a restaurant customer queuing in Bangkok, said, “There is an improvement because people are getting vaccinated and they are being more cautious.”
While easing lockdowns can have economic benefits, Dale Fisher of Singapore’s National University Hospital stressed they should also vaccinate their citizens more quickly.
“As you ease off the lockdowns, how much sort of punishment can you take before you have to bring a lockdown back in and be and be stronger? The answer’s in the vaccine,” he said.

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