The View From Asia

Covid-19's resurgence

Asia News Network writers discuss coronavirus flare-ups and possible solutions. Here are excerpts.

A bedridden woman gets swabbed for Covid-19 in Shijiazhuang, in China's Hebei province, on Jan 13, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

Plan to fight the virus


Sin Chew Daily, Malaysia

The number of coronavirus infections worldwide hit 90 million last Sunday, with more than 1.94 million fatalities.

Judging from the current trend, the 100 millionth case should be reported by end of this month.

Last Sunday, Malaysia reported more than 136,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and with an estimated 2,000-case daily increase, we should breach the 180,000 mark by late this month.

The good thing is, the fatality rate here is very low, only about 0.41 per cent, or 18.8 per cent of global average.

Many have pinned their hopes on the vaccines.

It is almost impossible for Malaysia to inoculate 83 per cent of its population by the end of this year.

As such, we need to have a strong resolution to combat the virus.

The top three health officials should try to take time off their busy schedules to visit the modular hospitals, quarantine centres, Covid-19 hospitals, large foreign worker hostels and workplaces for spot checks.

It is impossible for them to control the spread of the virus by merely gazing at the numbers at their air-conditioned offices.

Secondly, we must put up teams of Covid-19 fighters. Don't we boast a massive army of 1.7 million civil servants?

We should pick just 5 per cent out of these people to be volunteers. Their job is to inspect the environment of our modular hospitals as well as home quarantine compliance, with focus on Covid-19 readiness.

The problem will not be solved if we don't conduct regular checks and mete out heavy penalties on the violators.

Last but not least, there should be stricter controls and self discipline.

We will win against this war only if each and every one of us does our part to stop the virus.

Vacation reward for vaccinations

Tang Jun

China Daily, China

The latest outbreak of novel coronavirus infections in Hebei province should once again remind people of the importance of epidemic prevention and control.

The sporadic outbreaks of cases in recent months indicate that cold temperatures in most parts of China allow the virus to survive much longer than usual on frozen aquatic products as well as on the surface of other things - for instance, the wrappings of auto parts have tested positive for the virus in some places.

This has made it more difficult to prevent the virus from being transmitted to people from different sources. And if the chain of transmissions is not cut, social and economic activities will suffer.

It is time therefore to review the relationship among epidemic control, economic recovery and consumption growth.

Before the entire population is vaccinated, public health personnel as well as community and transport workers have to bear the major responsibility of preventing and controlling Covid-19.

As for the new outbreaks of infections, the authorities should consider adopting different approaches in different regions.

Twenty-four provinces and municipalities including Beijing and Shanghai have already called on their residents to stay where they work during the Chinese New Year holiday, so as to reduce the chances of being infected with the virus.

Perhaps the authorities should also consider rewarding people with vacations after people are vaccinated and the pandemic is effectively controlled.

Tackle issues with dorms

Michael Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippines

You may have heard about the Covid-19 outbreak in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City, involving 53 cadets.

Newspaper reports said the reported infections included food handlers, and they were apparently the source of the infections. It will be important to conduct more rigorous contact tracing and to look at how the infections spread. After all, PMA cadets have been under strict lockdown all these months - they all live inside the campus in the PMA dorms and are not allowed to leave the PMA premises.

I suspect the dorms facilitated the spread among the cadets, as has been happening in other countries that started face-to-face classes and dorm living. Because of prolonged exposure, with several cadets sharing a room for several hours each night, infections would have spread quickly.

The PMA can reduce the risks of future outbreaks with stricter screening of faculty and staff who live out. I see too many lapses in the screening as weary people scribble illegible information on the contact tracing forms.

More important is public education, so people learn to stay at home if they are experiencing symptoms - fever, cough and, now considered very important, loss of the senses of smell and taste.

Moreover, the PMA cases seem to reflect a pattern of asymptomatic cases, which have become quite common in the Philippines. People are shocked to find out they are positive when mass testing is done in larger institutions.

Unfortunately, too, we have been weak when it comes to tackling an important variable with Covid-19 infections: ventilation.

Dr Menandro Berana, an engineer specialising in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) explains that with Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, all our buildings and rooms must have provisions for exhaust fans as well as input fans to bring in fresh air.

Beyond ventilation, there may even have to be rules for dorm rooms being reserved for only sleeping because long conversations and singing, a favourite pastime, will help spread the virus if someone is already infected.

Mass testing more critical now


Dawn, Pakistan

Pakistan has crossed the half-million mark for Covid-19 cases in the country. After a spike in deaths and heightened positivity ratios over several weeks, we are now seeing a slowdown. Still, daily Covid-19-related deaths are clocking in at between 30 and 50, with new infections totalling between 1,500 and 3,000.

Although we have statistically fared better than many Western countries and even some regional states, our data has been historically weak due to low testing. At 32 tests per 1,000, Pakistan's per capita testing is lower than Iran's and India's that clock in at 95 and 129 respectively.

A mass testing strategy is more critical now than before, as it will accurately identify which areas are Covid-19 hot spots.

• The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 23 news media titles.

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