Patron: Her Excellency The Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand

Covid-19 Delta Variant Causes Widespread Devastation in Southeast Asia

By Dr Anita Perkins

In recent days our lives have been abruptly thrown into uncertainty as the Delta variant of Covid-19 has reached New Zealand shores and caused the entire country to go into level-4 lockdown.

Meanwhile our neighbours in Southeast Asia are suffering some of the highest infection and death rates from Delta in the world. Deaths in the region from Covid-19 numbered 38,522 over a two-week period, nearly twice as many as North America.[1] Indonesia alone has had more than 3.7 million reported cases of the virus, and 112,198 deaths.[2]

Whereas in 2020 some of these nations were able to contain the virus, the Delta variant, being highly contagious, is more difficult to manage and is pushing some already struggling healthcare facilities to their limit.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that vaccination rates in some Southeast Asian nations languish far behind that of other Western nations. While vaccination rates are higher in Singapore (71%), Cambodia (45%) and Malaysia (35%), the rate is much lower in Indonesia (11%), Philippines (12%), and Viet Nam (1.44%).[3]

Alexander Matheou, Red Cross Asia Pacific Director, is calling on richer nations to redistribute their excess vaccine doses and for scaled-up rates of production of vaccines.[4]

This is a sentiment shared by Helen Clark and Gordon Brown who, together with other international leaders, have been lobbying the G7 and G20 to fund a significant proportion of the cost of vaccination in low-income countries.[5] They emphasise that this would be in the best interests of all nations around the globe: “[Making] vaccines readily accessible to low- and middle-income countries is not an act of charity; it is in every country’s strategic interest. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund believes that such support would be the best public investment ever made.”[6]

Donations

New Zealand Red Cross Pacific Nations Covid-19 Appeal: https://www.redcross.org.nz/donate/pacific-nations-covid-19-appeal/

Australian Red Cross Global Covid-19 Appeal for Asia and the Pacific: https://www.redcross.org.au/campaigns/covid-19-response

[1] https://reliefweb.int/report/indonesia/covid-19-southeast-asia-battles-world-s-highest-deaths
[2] https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/126048892/he-died-alone-new-zealander-with-covid19-dies-in-indonesian-prison
[3] https://thediplomat.com/2021/08/southeast-asia-facing-critical-weeks-in-covid-19-fight-red-cross/
[4] https://reliefweb.int/report/indonesia/covid-19-southeast-asia-battles-world-s-highest-deaths
[5] https://www.linkedin.com/posts/helenclarknz_covidehi19-peoplesvaccine-activity-6808549213186748416-B5Cr
[6] https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/world-needs-breakthrough-year-in-2021-by-graca-machel-et-al-2021-06?a_la=english&a_d=60be07efee3ee23964786b6b&a_m=&a_a=click&a_s=&a_p=%2Fcolumnist%2Fgordon-brown&a_li=world-needs-breakthrough-year-in-2021-by-graca-machel-et-al-2021-06&a_pa=columnist-commentaries&a_ps=&a_ms=&a_r=