COVID-19 Cases Surge in Southeast Asian Countries, as Officials Call for Renewed Attention to Prevention

With COVID-19 infections and deaths rising in Myanmar and its neighbors, deposed national leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called on citizens in the military-ruled country to strictly observe all precautions aimed at preventing the pandemic’s spread, her lawyers said on Monday.

Following a court hearing in the capital Naypyidaw directed by the military junta that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratically elected civilian government on Feb. 1, defense attorney Min Min Soe said the 76-year-old leader had asked him to relay a message to the people of Myanmar to take good care of themselves amid the rising numbers of infections and deaths in the pandemic.

“She is very deeply concerned for the people,” Min Min Soe said, adding that Aung San Suu Kyi was asking many questions in order to stay informed on the growing spread of COVID-19 across the country and in the capital, where she now faces trial on seven separate charges brought by Myanmar’s new military rulers.

“As usual, she reiterated the need for people to wear face masks and regularly wash their hands. And she told us, her lawyers, to be especially careful ourselves during this time,” he said.

On June 28, 1,225 new cases of infection were reported in Myanmar, with 125 deaths recorded during the same 24-hour period. A total of 154,385 infections and 3,309 deaths from COVID-19 have now been reported in Myanmar since its first positive case was detected on March 23, 2020.

In neighboring Laos, COVID-19 cases began to climb again following a brief reduction in numbers with an additional 26 infections reported on June 28, bringing the nationwide total to 2,136, Rattanaxay Phetshouvanh—Director General of the Department of Disease Control of the Lao Ministry of Health—told reporters at a press briefing.

‘Only minor symptoms’

On June 27, the Lao National Taskforce for COVID-19 Prevention and Control reported that a 29-year-old woman living in the capital Vientiane had tested positive for COVID-19 despite having received two doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, one of the 530,000 residents of Laos to be fully vaccinated.

“We have warned the general public that even those who have been fully vaccinated can still contract [the virus],” a member of the National Taskforce told RFA’s Lao Service on June 28.

“They should still wear masks and maintain social distancing,” he said.

“In this particular case, the woman just has some minor symptoms—nothing serious. The vaccine has helped to protect her body from serious illness,” he added.

“I’m worried about what happened to that woman. I have no choice but to wear a mask and continue social distancing. None of can let our guard down,” one resident of Vientiane said, with another capital resident adding, “Even people having had two shots shouldn’t be careless.”

“They shouldn’t go drinking, partying, or gathering in large numbers. They should always practice strict preventive measures,” he said.

In Thailand, a 38-year-old Lao worker selling clothes at a market in Bangkok died at home of COVID-19 on Sunday after being diagnosed on June 18 and waiting for days for a hospital bed, a Thai health worker told RFA on June 28.

Her body was immediately cremated, and her husband is now also infected, RFA’s source said.

Cases climb in Vietnam, Cambodia

Case numbers also climbed in Vietnam and Cambodia over the weekend, with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health reporting 382 new cases on June 28 and Cambodian health authorities reporting 883 new cases for the same 24-hour period.

Of the new cases in Vietnam, 218 were registered in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, while 40 cases were reported in the southern province of Binh Duong and 26 were reported in the northern province of Bac Giang.

The remaining infections were detected in 16 other provinces and cities, health officials said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Southeast Asian country has reported 16,041 coronavirus cases. A total of 6,519 patients have recovered from the disease, including 200 announced on June 28, and 76 deaths have been recorded—most in patients already suffering from serious underlying health conditions.

Thirteen provinces and cities have not reported any new local infections now over the past 14 days, according to official reports.

In Cambodia, 16 more deaths were reported on June 28, bringing the country’s total to 556 dead since the pandemic began, the Ministry of Health said. The number of new infections has now risen to from 500 to nearly 1,000 per day, with daily death tolls rising from 10 to 20.

With case numbers climbing especially in the provinces of Tbong Khmum, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Siem Reap, and Banteay Meanchey, Cambodian health authorities are calling for renewed attention to prevention measures, especially with new cases of infection with a stronger and more virulent Delta variant being brought into the country, in many cases by workers from Thailand.

More than 48,590 cases of COVID-19 have now been recorded in Cambodia, with more than 42,000 now reported cured, and thousands of patients still receiving treatment in hospitals or at home. Nearly 4 million of the country’s 10 million people have now been vaccinated, mostly with Chinese-made vaccines.




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