Coronavirus warning: WHO urges 'aggressive' measures in Southeast Asia
The WHO said the numbers in its Southeast Asia region showed that "some countries are clearly heading towards community transmission of Covid-19".
Countries in South and Southeast Asia must “urgently scale-up aggressive measures” and widespread testing to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from spreading further, the World Health Organization has said in a warning. Eight countries in the region – India, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan -- have confirmed cases now, with numbers rising in the past week.
Asian stocks have continued to fall as worries about the pandemic eclipsed hopes that major stimulus plans would ease the impact of the outbreak, according to the BBC.
The WHO warning was issued for the organisation's South East Asia region, although this contains 11 nations spread widely, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh and North Korea. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of the WHO South East Asia region, said on Tuesday that "more clusters of virus transmission are being confirmed".
"We need to immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people," Dr Singh said. "We clearly need to do more, and urgently."
The WHO said the numbers in its South East Asia region showed that "some countries are clearly heading towards community transmission of Covid-19". It called for continued efforts to "detect, test, treat, isolate and trace contacts".
"Practising social distancing (could) not be emphasised enough... this alone has the potential to substantially reduce transmission," Dr Singh said, adding: "We need to act now."
FACT:— WHO South-East Asia (@WHOSEARO) March 17, 2020
????COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot & humid climates.
From the evidence so far, the #coronavirus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot☀️& humid weather.
Adopt protective measures if you live in or travel to an area reporting #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/ckWHnlpJzv
Many regional countries inside and outside the WHO's definition of South East Asia have had a slow response to the outbreak, only taking drastic measures in recent weeks or days as the number of cases continue to grow.
In India, the Indian Council of Medical Research has asked the WHO for a million test kits, and the government has expanded a travel ban on incoming travellers. The country has so far reported 147 confirmed cases with three deaths.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan urged calm after his contry’s tally of coronavirus cases rose to 245, while Sri Lanka sealed itself off and shut its stock market on Wednesday.
“Even the US doesn’t have the resources to test everyone who comes,” he said. “Only those with intense symptoms should go to hospital. There is no need to worry. We will fight this as a nation. And God-willing, we will win this war,” Khan said.
Sri Lanka, which has recorded 43 coronavirus cases, said it would ban all incoming flights for two weeks from Wednesday to combat the spread of the virus. Officials also implemented price controls on lentils and sardines to ensure that no price gouging. Sri Lanka also said its stock market would remain shut for the rest of the week as it attempts to minimise interactions and curb the disease.
The Maldives and Bangladesh confirmed their first cases last week. Bhutan confirmed its first case earlier this month. Indonesia has extended a travel ban across much of Europe and the Middle East, and has suspended some visa services.
Thailand was the first country outside China to get the coronavirus. This weekend, it confirmed the largest single-day increase in cases so far.
Nepal has cancelled all Mount Everest expeditions for the rest of the season -- a huge move, given that it's nearly peak season, and that Everest and tourism are crucial to the country's economy.