Asia needs to up the ante in Covid war

An estimated 1.74 billion vaccines have been administered globally.

Going by how a lot of countries in Asia managed the pandemic last year, it was hard to imagine any slip-up or possibility of this highly infectious disease massively disrupting their economies again. Until early this year, Vietnam, Cambodia, Pakistan, China, India, Singapore, and many others seem to have managed the pandemic with less disruption and lower death rates in Europe or North America.

In January, in fact, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that the country had beaten Covid-19. Rising death tolls and cases in India today, however, paint a different story. Singapore and Taiwan too have witnessed a sudden spike in the rate of infections in recent weeks along with several others in the region. So far, an estimated 1.74 billion vaccines have been administered globally, but most of these have been in the US and Europe. Asian countries have largely slacked in the rollout and therein lies the reason for the reversal of fates.

Countries with high rate of inoculation have been able to gradually open up. The UAE is at the top with 124 vaccination doses administered per 100 people in the total population. This is followed by Israel and Bahrain. The UK and the US have given 91 and 86 doses of vaccine per 100 people respectively and the EU has administered 50. At this pace, these countries could achieve pre-Covid era normalcy soon. But with Asia, the economic powerhouse of the world, lagging behind, it would be impossible to open borders like before and allow air travel to resume.

Trade cannot rebound, travel cannot thrive, if select parts of the world continue to slack in their efforts to vaccinate. India has so far provided just 14 doses of vaccine per 100 people, South Korea 11, China 37, Japan 8, Thailand and the Philippines 4, Pakistan 2, and Taiwan just 1. Singapore has upped its drive and managed to give 63 vaccine doses per 100 people. A recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit suggests the world take a couple of more years to fully vaccinate people in all countries.

More vaccines should be available during the course of the year as production ramps up globally. But it is equally important to tackle the fear and misinformation around vaccinations that is discouraging people from getting inoculated. Vaccine hesitancy is a severe issue that needs to be dealt with. This is where clear communication from governments and political leaders will help. Many countries lack the infrastructure to deal with the pandemic of this scale. It, therefore, merits making people aware of their duty to follow Covid safety protocol, disseminating right information, and also fastening the process of vaccination.

These are the only ways to emerge out of this crisis at the earliest possible. Asia had demonstrated its prowess in public health during the early days of the pandemic. It now needs to up the ante in this drive and ensure people get their jabs in time.


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