Asia Has Kept COVID-19 at Bay for 2 Years. Omicron Could Change That

Border controls, quarantine requirements, mask-wearing culture and vaccination campaigns haven’t stopped Omicron

Southeast Asia, Japan

19/1/2022 1:00:00 PM

'There’s actually very little that we can do to prevent it, except for vaccinating populations,' said an infectious disease expert from the Duke-NUS Medical School.

Border controls, quarantine requirements, mask-wearing culture and vaccination campaigns haven’t stopped Omicron

to increase by only 1% in 2021. Tourism-dependent businesses across Asia took the hit. Lee Kyusung, a bar owner from Seoul in South Korea, said he saw less of his expatriate customers, who made up at least 40% of his usual crowd.While some places, like Singapore, have reopened borders for vaccinated travelers from other countries, most have imposed restrictions on travelers regardless of vaccination status. That’s because growing evidence shows that current vaccines are less effective at stopping the spread of Omicron than of previous variants. Even so, they remain effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and death.

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oh another lie Forgetting a HUGE Asian Country, are we? 🤡 Also, so much “research” is done about India’s “excessive” numbers of Covid. Why not other big countries like 🇨🇳? fyi Akbank China 🇨🇳 made it are you celebrating for virus spread? Guess the west part of Asia doesn’t exist 🤣 You can't contain the flu, you should know that by now 😂😂😂😂😂🤟🖖

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estimated to increase by only 1% in 2021. Tourism-dependent businesses across Asia took the hit. Lee Kyusung, a bar owner from Seoul in South Korea, said he saw less of his expatriate customers, who made up at least 40% of his usual crowd. While some places, like Singapore, have reopened borders for vaccinated travelers from other countries, most have imposed restrictions on travelers regardless of vaccination status. That’s because growing evidence shows that current vaccines are less effective at stopping the spread of Omicron than of previous variants. Even so, they remain effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and death. The good—and bad—news about vaccines Complicating matters, a small-scale study suggests one of the most common vaccines in the region could be especially ineffective at stopping Omicron’s transmission. The lab study by Hong Kong University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong scientists in November analyzed blood samples from 25 patients vaccinated with two shots of CoronaVac—an inactivated vaccine made by China’s Sinovac. It found none of the samples produced enough neutralizing antibodies to stop the Omicron variant. For the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine, only five out of 25 samples produced enough antibodies. (More neutralizing antibody levels are thought to provide more protection against symptomatic COVID-19.) Sinovac’s shot is one of the two vaccines widely used in China, where 2.9 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered. It is also the most used vaccine in Indonesia. The Philippines received more than 50 million doses of the vaccine from China. But Leo Poon, of the University of Hong Kong, says that policymakers should take into account data from other countries, which shows Omicron surges are likely to put less stress on health care systems if the population is highly vaccinated. “I think that that is good news, and this is the most important message,” he says. “Everyone has to understand that.” For countries with high vaccination rates, like Japan, many infectious disease experts are saying it’s time for politicians to drop tough restrictions on international travel. “Japan’s approach to border control—shutting down borders—does not make sense any more,” says Kenji Shibuya, Research Director of the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research. “I think that it is a political gesture.” Not every country has that luxury. Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, has fully vaccinated just 43% of its 274 million people, according to World Health Organization data. The Philippines has a vaccination rate of 47%. In conflict-ridden Myanmar the rate is 30%. “We need to try to help these people,” Poon says. He appeals to countries with surplus jabs to do more: “If you have vaccines, then please make them available to other people.” TRENDING