Asia surpassed 10 million infections of the new coronavirus, the second-heaviest regional toll in the world, according to a Reuters tally, as cases continue to mount in India despite a slowdown and sharp declines elsewhere.
Behind only Latin America, Asia accounts for about one-fourth of the global caseload of 42.1 million of the virus. With over 163 thousand deaths, the region accounts for some 14% of the global COVID-19 toll.
The Reuters tally is based on official reporting by countries. The actual numbers of cases and deaths are likely much higher, experts say, given deficiencies in testing and potential underreporting in many countries.
Despite the Asian spikes, the region overall has reported improvement in handling the pandemic in recent weeks, with daily caseloads slowing in places like India – a sharp contrast to the COVID-19 resurgence seen in Europe and North America.
Within the region, South Asia led by India is the worst affected, with nearly 21% of the reported global coronavirus cases and 12% of deaths. This contrasts with countries like China and New Zealand that have crushed infections and Japan, where COVID-19 had been stubbornly entrenched but not accelerating.
The country is averaging 764 COVID-19 deaths a day, the worst in the world and accounting for one in every 13 global pandemic deaths.
But India’s infections may surge again, doctors fear, with a holiday approaching and winter bringing more severe pollution from farmers burning stubble, worsening the breathing difficulties that many COVID-19 patients suffer.
India’s eastern neighbour Bangladesh is Asia’s second-worst hit country, with nearly 400,000 cases. But daily infections have slowed to 1,453, less than 40% of the July peak.
Although the pandemic is slowing in Bangladesh, the world’s biggest apparel producer after China faces harsh recession as a second wave of COVID-19 hits key markets in Europe and the United States.
In Southeast Asia, Indonesia surpassed the Philippines last week as the worst-hit nation with more than 370,000 infections.
Despite Asia’s patchy record, a World Health Organization expert said that Europe and North America should follow the example of Asian states in persevering with anti-COVID measures and quarantine restrictions for infected people.
Mike Ryan, head of the UN agency’s emergencies programme, said the global death toll from COVID-19 could double to 2 million before a successful vaccine is widely used and could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic.