India suffers vaccine shortages as cases keep breaking records
South Korea weighs more virus curbs as daily infections surge
Thailand eyes nightlife curbs to arrest 3rd coronavirus wave
India, South Korea and Thailand faced mounting coronavirus infections yesterday, undermining cautious hopes that Asia might be emerging from the worst of the pandemic as worries about safety threatened to delay vaccination drives.
India reported a record 126,789 new cases, the third day this week tallies have surged to more than 100,000, catching by surprise authorities who have blamed crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as shops and offices reopen.
More infectious variants of the virus may have played a role in India's surge, some epidemiologists say, with hundreds of cases found of variants first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
The alarming numbers have led to New Zealand putting a temporary ban on anyone arriving from India, even for the first time blocking New Zealand citizens from coming home, for about two weeks.
New Zealand, which has virtually eliminated the virus within its borders, recorded 23 new cases at its border yesterday, 17 from India.
Two other countries that managed to largely keep the coronavirus under control during the first year of the pandemic were also grappling with new waves, though smaller than India's.
South Korea reported 700 new cases on Thursday, its highest daily figure since early January, and the prime minister warned that new social distancing rules would likely be needed.
Thailand, which has been planning a cautious re-opening of its tourist industry, reported a rise in new daily infections to 405 yesterday, taking its total number of infections to 30,310, with 95 deaths.
Adding to Thai worries, it has detected 24 cases of a highly contagious virus variant first detected in Britain, its first reported domestic transmission of the variant.
Asia's increasing cases comes as worries are growing over the safety of one of the most prominent vaccines against the virus: AstraZeneca Plc's Covid-19 vaccine.
Worry about the vaccine could delay immunisation drives in Asia, some of which are already dogged by supply problems. Campaigns in most parts of Asia lag those in places like Britain and the United States.
While India's cases mount, vaccine centres in several parts of the country, including hardest-hit Maharashtra state, have been running out of supplies.
According to the Times of India, 10 states have stocks that will last only three or four more days, including Uttar Pradesh, home to about 200 million people, as well as Bihar and West Bengal. More than 700 million people across India were facing coronavirus vaccine shortages, local media reported.