Indonesia has converted almost all of its oxygen production to medical use just to meet demand for COVID-19 patients with difficulty breathing. Overwhelmed hospitals in Malaysia have had to resort to treating patients on the floor. And in Myanmar's largest city, cemetery workers have been working day and night to meet the grim demand for more cremations and burials.
Images of bodies burning in the sky open - bonfires during the peak of the pandemic in India horrified the world in May, but in the past two weeks the three Southeast Asian countries have now all exceeded the record-breaking per capita death rate in the world. 'India as a new wave of coronavirusirus, fueled by the virulent delta variant, is tightening its grip on the region.
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Deaths have followed a record high number of new cases reported in countries in the region that have left health systems struggling to cope and governments scrambling to implement new restrictions to try to slow the spread.
July 14, 2021: Workers in protective gear lower the coffin of a COVID-19 victim to a grave for burial at Cipenjo Cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia. The world's fourth most populous country has been hit hard by an explosion of COVID-19 cases that has strained hospitals on the main island of Java. ((AP Photo / Achmad Ibrahim))
When Eric Lam tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized on June 17 in the Malaysian state of Selangor, the cbetween the epidemic, the corridors of the government facility were already crowded with patients on beds without room in the wards.
The situation was still better than in some other hospitals in Selangor, the The richest and most populous state in Malaysia, where there were no free beds and patients were reportedly treated on the floor or on stretchers. The government has since added more hospital beds and converted more wards for COVID-19 patients.
Lam, 38, recalled once during his three weeks at the hospital for hearing a machine beeping continuously for two hours before a nurse arrived to turn it off; he later learned that the patient had died.
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AA variety of factors have contributed to the recent surge in the region, including people increasingly weary of the pandemic and blurting out precautions, low vaccination rates and the emergence of the delta variant of the virus, which was first detected in India, said Abhishek Rimal, emergency health coordinator for Asia-Pacific. for the Malaysian-based Red Cross.
"With the measures countries are taking, if people are following the basics of handwashing, wearing masks, distance and vaccination , we will see a drop in the number of cases in the coming weeks, "he said.
So far, however, Malaysia's national containment measures have failed not lower the daily rate of infections. The country of some 32 million saw the number of daily cases exceed 10,000 for the first time on July 13, and they have remained there ever since.
The vaccination rate remains lowaible but has resumed, with nearly 15% of The population is now fully vaccinated and the government hopes to have a majority vaccinated by the end of the year.
Doctors and nurses have worked tirelessly to try and keep pace, and Lam was one of the lucky ones.
After his condition initially deteriorated, he was put on ventilation or in an intensive care unit filled to capacity and recovered slowly. It was released two weeks ago.
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But it lost his father and brother-in-law to the virus, and another brother remains on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.
"I feel like I have been reborn and that I 'got a second chance at life "he said.
With the huge populationof nearly 1.4 billion people, its total death toll from COVID-19 remains higher than that of countries in Southeast Asia. But the seven-day moving average of COVID-19 deaths per million in India peaked at 3.04 in May, according to the online science publication Our World in Data, and continues to decline.
Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia have posted strong increases since late June and their seven-day averages reached 4.37, 4.29 and 4.14 per million, respectively, on Wednesday. Cambodia and Thailand have also seen sharp increases in coronavirus cases and deaths, but have so far kept the rate of seven days per million people lower at 1.55 and 1.38, respectively .
In some countries elsewhere rates, but the increases are particularly alarming for a region that largely kept numbers low at the start of the pandemic.
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Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country with some 270 million people, reported 1,449 deaths on Thursday, its day deadliest since the start of the pandemic.
Daily cases until around mid-June had been around 8,000, but then started to rise and peak last week with over 50,000 new infections every day. Since the testing rate in Indonesia is low, the actual number of new cases would be much higher.
As hospitals in the region began to run out oxygen, the government stepped in and ordered manufacturers to shift most of the industry's production and devote 90% to medical oxygen, up from 25% previously.
Before the current crisis, the country needed 400 tons of oxygen for medical use per day; With the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, daily use has quintupled to over 2,000 tons, according to Deputy Health Minister Dante Saksono.
Although the production of oxygen is now sufficient, Lia Partakusuma, Secretary General of the Indonesian Hospital Association said there were distribution problems, so some hospitals are still facing shortages.
In Indonesia, around 14% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine, mainly the Chinese Sinovac.
However, there are growing concerns that Sinovac may be less effective against the delta variant, and Indonesia and Thailand are planning booster shots of other vaccines for their health workers vaccinated with Sinovac.
In Myanmar, the pandemic took precedence over the army 's takeover in February, which triggered ague of protests and violent political conflicts which devastated the public health system.
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Only in recent weeks , as testing and reporting of COVID- 19 cases have started to recover, has it become clear that a new wave of the virus from mid-May is rapidly increasing cases and deaths.
Since early July, its death rate has increased almost directly, and cases and deaths are grossly underreported.
On Tuesday, the government reported 5,860 new cases and 286 new deaths. There are no solid figures on vaccinations, but based on the number of doses available, it is believed that around 3% of the population could have received two injections.
Officials postponed this week during publications on social networkscemeteries that Yangon's cemeteries were overwhelmed and could not keep up with the death toll, inadvertently confirming claims that hospitals were flooded and many people were dying at home.
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Cho Tun Aung, head o The department that oversees the cemeteries told the military-run Myawaddy TV news on Monday that 350 staff were working in three shifts since July 8 to ensure proper cremations and burials in Yangon's seven main cemeteries.
He said workers cremated and buried more than 1,200 people as of Sunday alone, including 1,065 who died at home from COVID-19 and 169 who died in hospitals.
"We are working in three equipes day and night to bury the dead, "he said. " Clearly there is no such problem as Facebook posts. "