Moscow Covid Deaths Rise As Asia Pacific Countries Lockdown
A gravedigger wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as a preventive measure against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) buries a person in a cemetery on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg, Russia on Friday. (Reuters photo)
Moscow recorded the worst daily coronavirus death toll for a Russian city on Sunday as countries in the Asia-Pacific region extended or reintroduced restrictions to fight new waves of infection.
The pandemic has now killed nearly four million people around the world, but vaccination campaigns have lowered the number of infections in many affluent countries, although the Delta strain of the virus remains a cause for concern.
The variant is now available in 85 countries and is the most contagious of all identified Covid-19 strains, according to the World Health Organization.
Still, in much of Europe and the United States, restrictions on daily living are being eased as vaccination programs bear fruit, despite Russia grappling with a deadly third wave.
The Russian capital recorded 144 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours on Sunday, a day after Saint Petersburg reached its all-time high.
Saint Petersburg has played six Euro 2020 games and is slated to host a quarter-finals on Friday, with attendance levels capped at half, but still with more than 26,000 people.
Russia as a whole has seen an explosion of new infections since mid-June, driven by the Delta variant.
The dramatic increase in cases is due to officials in Moscow urging vaccine-skeptical Russians to get vaccinated after lifting most of the antivirus restrictions late last year.
“To stop the pandemic, one thing is needed: fast and large-scale vaccinations. Nobody has come up with another solution,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told state television on Saturday.
– ‘In smoke’ –
The Delta variant is also feeding new outbreaks in Southeast Asia and Australia, where authorities have lifted or extended restrictions.
More than five million Sydney residents endured their first full day of a two-week lockdown on Sunday to contain an outbreak of the tribe.
Restaurants, bars and cafes have closed and home stay orders have been placed, leaving the city center virtually deserted.
“Given the contagiousness of this strain of the virus, we assume that the number of cases in the next few days is likely to exceed what we saw today,” said New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian.
More than 110 Covid-19 cases have been reported in Sydney since a driver from an international flight crew tested positive for the Delta variant in mid-June.
The flare-up was a shock to a place that had returned to relative normality after months with few local cases.
27-year-old professional musician Blain Cunneen said his work – gigs, studio sessions and teaching students – “went up in smoke” overnight.
“Everything that was working almost as usual started working again … all of a sudden, overnight I got a bunch of emails and text messages about everything that was canceled,” he told AFP.
Australia’s northern city of Darwin also entered a separate 48-hour lockdown on Sunday after a handful of cases were linked to a coronavirus outbreak in a remote gold mine.
“The Northern Territory now faces its greatest threat since the beginning of the Covid crisis,” said Northern Territory Prime Minister Michael Gunner.
– Restrictions reinstated –
Similar spikes in infection have recently been observed in Southeast Asia.
Thailand will again impose restrictions on restaurants, construction sites and gatherings in the capital Bangkok from Monday to curb a wave of infections.
The country’s latest wave started in April when a cluster was found in upscale clubs in Bangkok.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has announced that the country will be fully reopened by October, but that would require the goal of vaccinating 50 million Thais in four months.
In neighboring Malaysia, the prime minister announced that a nationwide lockdown, which has been in place for about a month, will continue and did not give a date for the restrictions to be lifted.
His government had previously announced that strict restrictions would be gradually relaxed as long as there was a fall in infections, the use of intensive care beds and an increase in vaccination rates.
Bangladesh also said a new national lockdown would be imposed starting Monday, which would close offices for a week and only allow medical transports.