This aerial photo taken on July 1 shows empty streets in Dhaka as the country went into a strict Covid-19 Coronavirus lockdown | AFP
DHAKA: Bangladesh’s 168 million people on Thursday began a strict coronavirus lockdown while Indonesia announced emergency curbs as infections surged across parts of the Asia-Pacific.
A European Union-wide coronavirus travel certificate was also set to come into force on Thursday, but concerns persisted about a resurgence of the disease as the World Health Organisation said cases in the continent were up after 10 weeks of decline.
Many outbreaks have been blamed on the more infectious Delta variant of the virus, which has pushed Covid-19 deaths in Russia to record levels and sparked an “alarming and dangerous” case surge in Bangladesh.
The streets of the South Asian nation were empty on Thursday, patrolled by the army and the police, with people confined to their homes except for emergencies and to buy essentials.
“A lot of people are dying and getting infected,” Touhidul Islam Chowdhury, who owns a small loan recovery firm, said. “The army should have deployed much earlier.” Many hospitals in Bangladesh are struggling, particularly in areas bordering India where the strain was first detected. Some rural towns have recorded infection rates of 70 percent.
The healthcare system in Indonesia was also overwhelmed by a huge coronavirus wave, which has forced the government to tighten restrictions from Saturday until July 20.
The curbs, lasting more than two weeks, cover the capital Jakarta, hard-hit Java and the holiday island Bali, as infections rose to record levels in the vast Southeast Asian nation with authorities warning about the spread of different coronavirus variants.
The new variants — such as Delta, the most contagious to date — have fuelled outbreaks around the world even as mass vaccination programmes are launched in many countries.
More than 180 million infections and close to four million Covid-19 deaths have been recorded since the pandemic began.
The WHO said that after two months of decline, Covid-19 cases were on the rise again in Europe, warning that a new wave would come “unless we remain disciplined”.
Russia reported record coronavirus deaths for the third day in a row on Thursday as it battled an outbreak spurred by the Delta variant.
President Vladimir Putin has urged Russians to get vaccinated, with only 15 percent of the population choosing to get jabbed so far despite free shots being available since December.
“It is necessary to listen, not to people who understand little about this and spread rumours, but to specialists,” Putin said Wednesday, as Russian authorities scrambled to contain the outbreak.
The latest figures — 672 deaths in 24 hours — came a day ahead of Saint Petersburg hosting a quarter-final of the Euro 2020 football tournament, with 26,000 spectators expected despite the worrying coronavirus situation in Russia.
The WHO said host cities of the football matches need to better monitor the movement of spectators, including before they arrive and after they leave the stadiums.
“We need to look much beyond just the stadia themselves,” said Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at the WHO’s European office.
Despite the resurgence of the virus in many parts of the world, many nations are pressing ahead with their plans to open up their economies and revive sectors badly hit by the pandemic, especially travel and tourism.
An EU-wide Covid-19 certificate for easier travel came into force Thursday with hopes of a tourism revival during the summer, but there are worries that its use will be limited by new outbreaks.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.