New wave of COVID sweeps Asia; New Zealand warns of pressure on hospitals

 New wave of COVID sweeps Asia;  New Zealand warns of pressure on hospitals

WELLINGTON/TOKYO, Jul 14 (Reuters) – A new wave of coronavirus infections is spreading rapidly across Asia, prompting warnings for residents from New Zealand to Japan to take precautions to slow the outbreak and help prevent healthcare systems from stalling. overloaded.

The new rise in cases, particularly of the BA.4/5 Omicron variants, poses an additional challenge for authorities dealing with the economic fallout from previous waves of the pandemic, while trying to avoid extending or reintroducing unpopular restrictions.

The New Zealand government on Thursday announced free masks and rapid antigen tests as it tries to ease pressure on the country’s healthcare system, which is dealing with an influx of COVID and influenza patients during the southern hemisphere winter. see More information

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“There is no doubt that the combination of an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the worst flu season in recent memory, and corresponding employee absences are putting healthcare workers and the entire healthcare system under extreme pressure.” , said Ayesha Verrall, Minister for COVID-19. Answer, she said in a statement.

New Zealand, which has a population of 5.1 million, has nearly 69,000 currently infected with the virus. Of these, 765 cases are in the hospital, which caused the waiting time to increase and surgeries to be cancelled.

In Japan, new cases of COVID-19 have risen to levels not seen since the beginning of this year. The government has urged people to be especially careful ahead of a long weekend and imminent summer school vacation. see More information

Japan reported nearly 95,000 cases on Wednesday and newly infected patients rose 2.14 times compared to last week, according to a government spokesman.

“The number of new cases is increasing in all prefectures in Japan and appears to be spreading rapidly,” Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said at the start of a committee meeting on dealing with the coronavirus.

Tokyo has raised its alert level to the highest level. “Tomorrow, we will hold a task force meeting to decide on measures to be taken this summer, taking into account the national trend and expert opinions,” said Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. during a meeting.

Like New Zealand, South Korea was lauded for its response at the start of the pandemic, but as of Wednesday, daily cases had tripled in a week to more than 39,000. see More information

Officials and experts expect South Korea’s new daily cases to reach 200,000 by mid-August to late September and are expanding booster inoculations but not planning further restrictions.

Australia has warned it could be hit with its worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the coming weeks, fueled by the BA.4/5 Omicron variants. Officials said “millions” of new infections can be expected, but they ruled out any tough restrictions to stem the spread.

“We’ve gone beyond that … we’re not in the age of lockdowns and that sort of thing,” Federal Health Minister Mark Butler told radio station 2GB on Thursday, even as he urged Australians to consider working on home again.

Australian hospital admissions are already hovering close to levels seen in the last major outbreak of Omicron earlier this year, with their healthcare system also under pressure from the high numbers of COVID and influenza.

While cases in Thailand have declined, infections in Indonesia have risen, reaching the highest level since March.

New infections and hospitalizations in the Philippines remain low, but the government has warned that the number of cases could increase at least 20-fold by the end of the month.

Manila is urging more people to receive their booster shots as Ministry of Health data shows that only a quarter of eligible adults received their first booster on July 12.

Mainland China recorded an average of more than 300 locally transmitted COVID infections daily in July, up from around 70 in June, as Beijing’s strict “dynamic zero COVID” policy helps keep local clusters in check and prevented. hospital overload.

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Reporting by Lucy Cramer in Wellington, Elaine Lies and Mariko Katsumura in Tokyo, Renju Jose in Sydney, Stanley Widianto in Jakarta; Neil Jerome Morales in Manila, Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok, Roxanne Liu in Beijing; Written by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Kim Coghill

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.