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News > India

India COVID-19 Variant Spreads to Neighboring Asian Countries

  •  As the COVID-19 variant that emerged in India last year spreads beyond its borders, the epicentre of the pandemic shifts from Latin America to South Asia and the wider region.

    As the COVID-19 variant that emerged in India last year spreads beyond its borders, the epicentre of the pandemic shifts from Latin America to South Asia and the wider region. | Photo: Twitter @frontline_india

Published 31 May 2021

Experts have concluded that India’s slow response to the outbreak of new aggressively contagious Covid variants contributes to the spread of those variants among its neighbor Asian nations.

While India is still showing a slow pace in handling its domestic virus surge caused by a highly transmissible mutated variant, COVID-19 variants that were detected in India continue to be exported to neighboring countries, triggering a wave of epidemic resurgence in more Asian countries.


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In just a few weeks, the B.1.617 variant has become the dominant strain across India, and now there are more than 50 countries where the variant has been detected, including Singapore, China, Nepal, and Vietnam.

Vietnam, a country that has set an example worldwide in fighting and controlling the epidemic, is now being confronted with a suspected new coronavirus variant, a hybrid of the strains that were first detected in India and the UK, according to local media reports.

The passive prevention and control measures adopted by the Indian government have contributed to the variants spilling over to other Asian countries, Chinese observers said, warning India's neighboring countries to further raise their response levels and speed up vaccine administration rates to stem the tide of the new surges.

"A new coronavirus variant with characteristics from the existing variants in India and the UK has been detected in Vietnam for the first time," Vietnam's Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long told a national news conference on Saturday, reported CNN on Monday.

Since April, Vietnam - which was regarded as a leading example in containing the virus thanks to its strict strategy of tests, quarantine, and monitoring - has recorded a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections. However, the new variant cannot be pointed unequivocally to be behind the surge, media reports said. 

Hanoi has not yet implemented a total citywide lockdown, but dining-in services were limited. Ho Chi Minh City will carry out mass testing and introduce new social distancing measures in response to a new cluster linked to a religious mission, Wang said.


In the wake of surging cases, the Vietnam aviation authority announced Monday that all inbound international passenger flights to Hanoi`s Noi Bai International Airport and Ho Chi Minh City`s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, will be suspended starting Tuesday, the Vietnam News Agency reported. 

The situation is similar in other Asian countries. Some of the more infectious variants have contributed to a surge in Malaysia, which will impose a nationwide lockdown starting in June. Health facilities in Nepal have been pushed to their limit in the face of increasing daily cases. The number of confirmed cases in Thailand had climbed to 159,792 as of Monday, with 82 percent recorded during the latest surge that began in early April, according to media reports. 

This wave of a resurgence across Asia has been largely triggered by weak anti-epidemic measures taken by the Indian government, Tian Guangqiang, an assistant research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Driven by political reasons, the Modi government has blindly sought economic growth before its domestic COVID-19 cases had been cleared. Adding in factors such as the huge population flows and relatively loose virus prevention and control policies, India, like a storm center, continues to spread the virus to neighboring countries, Tian said.

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