Singapore—Asian countries such as Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam have been held up as successful examples of managing the Covid-19 pandemic, with infection numbers much lower than in the United States, Europe and South American countries.
However, with the US going mask-free as of last week, and infection numbers in much of Europe continuing to go down even as the “Asian successes” are battling the highest infection clusters in months, analysts are looking how things have gone wrong in Asia in a seemingly short time.
The answer may lie with vaccine roll-outs.
Singapore has seen the highest number of community cases in months, which has been a worrisome development, especially since some of the cases have been classified as unlinked. This could mean that the spread of infections may be going undetected.
This has led to the most stringent restriction measures the country has seen in months, with social gatherings limited to two persons, most employees working from home again, and students returning to home-based learning.
In Taiwan, which is experiencing community transmissions for the first time, similar restrictions have been imposed. Schools have been shut down until May 28, and foreigners may not enter or transit Taiwan unless they have a residency card, for the next month.
Vietnam, where the total number of Covid-19 cases has also been low, is similar seeing a sharp uptick in community transmissions. It was reported on Tuesday (May 18), that “the seven-day rolling average of daily new Covid-19 cases in Vietnam has increased by more than 800% over the past month and is now well above the highs hit during earlier waves.”
One factor that may be threatening Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam’s Covid-19 success is the lag in vaccination efforts.
In contrast, in Singapore only around one-fifth of the population is fully vaccinated, and in Taiwan, only one per cent of its 23 million people. In Vietnam, just over one million of the country’s 96 million residents have been vaccinated.
The slower vaccine roll-outs, combined with the threat of new variants emerging, means that these countries have to make up for lost time.
Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on Tuesday (May 18) that children from the ages of 12 to 15 will get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine soon. Mr Ong added that those in the 40 to 44 age group may start with their first jab on May 19.
Moreover, the country is now delaying the second jab for those who already got their first one, to ensure more people get at least the first jab.
The GAVI Vaccine Alliance announced that more AstraZeneca vaccines will be arriving in Taiwan.
As for Vietnam, its health ministry has met with the World Health Organization (WHO) concerning the needed technology transfer for it to manufacture mRNA vaccines locally.
In April, the WHO laid out plans for helping low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to make mRNA vaccines. If local manufactures in Vietnam meet the WHO’s criteria, it would benefit the whole country.