Karachi/Dhaka: South Asia coronavirus cases have increased at the fastest rate globally in the past week, as the region becomes one of the latest pandemic hot spots.
Infections have risen by 27% in Pakistan, while Bangladesh cases spiked by 19% and 17% in India, according to data of the 20 most affected nations compiled by Bloomberg. Pakistan and Bangladesh also had their single biggest daily spike in fatalities.
As cases dwindle in the U.S. and Europe, they are still increasing in South America and South Asia. More than 136,000 cases were reported worldwide on Sunday, the most in a single day so far, with nearly 75% from 10 countries in the Americas and South Asia, according to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Countries across South Asia have started to ease their virus lockdowns as they attempt to balance rising cases against economic misery. Pakistan had expected a peak in June but now is expecting late July or August, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in an address to the nation on June 8.
“The world has eased lockdowns since even developed countries have decided they can’t survive with a prolonged lockdown,” said Khan in a televised briefing on the pandemic, noting the restrictions had a “devastating impact on unemployment and poverty in poor countries.”
Pakistan crossed 108,000 cases and become the second largest most infected nation in Asia with about 2,000 deaths. In Bangladesh, the tally surged to 71,675 including 975 deaths, while India has 267,046 cases and 7,473 deaths.
“Lockdowns are being eased in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh without any sign that coronavirus infections are being brought under control,” Mark Williams, chief Asia economist and Shilan Shah, senior economist at Capital Economics wrote in a report Tuesday. “For a start, there is no telling how long containing the virus might take or indeed if it is even possible in South Asia.”
Pakistan has seen its health care system stretched, with patients put on waiting lists as the largest hospitals run out of space.
South Asia’s second largest economy opened its snow-topped peaks in the northern areas for tourism last week after easing restrictions on most retail shops including malls. Some shopping areas were shut down in commercial capital Karachi as social distancing was not being followed.
Gilead Sciences Inc. has licensed its potential Covid-19 treatment, remdesivir, to five generic drug manufacturers in India and Pakistan to speed supply chain development and help meet anticipated demand while Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd. became the world’s first company to start selling the generic version. – Bloomberg
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