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Several Asian cities grapple with spike in Covid-19 cases

Covid-19 variant detected in Bangkok, Osaka; Delhi, Mumbai brace for a surge

Several Asian cities have seen coronavirus cases spike due to a new wave of infections, in some cases spurred by variants.

Bangkok, Osaka, New Delhi and Mumbai have either imposed or are facing lockdowns and curfews.

Thailand recorded 334 new infections yesterday, with no new deaths, bringing its case total to 29,905 with 95 fatalities.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the authorities to prepare field hospitals in anticipation of a surge.

Ten of his ministers and dozens of lawmakers were self-isolating yesterday due to exposure to positive cases.

"We can handle things right now, and I have instructed the preparation for field hospitals in the Bangkok area," Mr Prayut said.

"We could need these field hospitals in case the pandemic worsens," he added.

To make matters worse, Thailand has detected at least 24 cases of the B117 variant first identified in Britain, a government health expert said yesterday, its first known domestic transmission of the highly contagious variant.

The variant has been blamed for fuelling new waves of infections in record numbers in more than 100 countries.

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The B117 variant was found in a cluster of 24 visitors to entertainment venues in Bangkok, which were detected over the weekend. Nearly 200 such venues have been closed for two weeks.

"We did everything to block it, and it still gets through," government expert and virologist at Chulalongkorn University Yong Poovorawan said.

"This variant is very viral and can spread 1.7 times faster than the usual strain," he added.

In Japan, record infections has prompted Osaka to declare a medical emergency.

Health authorities fear a virus variant is unleashing a fourth wave of infections just 107 days before the Tokyo Olympics.

Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said the medical system is facing enormous strain as a more infectious variant sent cases skyrocketing among young people.

"It is almost certain that this mutant strain is highly contagious with a high transmission speed," he said. "I would like to ask all residents of Osaka prefecture to refrain from going out unnecessarily. The medical system is in a very tight situation."

The Olympic torch relay, scheduled to pass through Osaka next Tuesday and Wednesday, will be barred from roads and held in the Expo '70 Commemorative Park without spectators.

Meanwhile, India's second wave of infections continued to swell as it reported a record 115,736 new cases yesterday, a 13-fold increase in just over two months.

New Delhi on Tuesday imposed an immediate night curfew.The ban will be in place from 10pm to 5am through the end of this month, with only essential services or people travelling to and from vaccination centres allowed on the streets.

On Sunday, India's wealthiest state, Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, announced a weekend lockdown and night curfew on its population of 110 million. The state accounts for more than half of new cases reported each day nationwide.

India has 12.8 million cases, the third highest behind the US and Brazil. More than 166,000 Indians have died. - REUTERS, AFP

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