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Hundreds of Thais inoculated with Sinovac are infected as cases spike in Southeast Asia

Quiet streets on Monday in Bangkok, where coronavirus restrictions were recently tightened. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images)
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More than 600 Thai medical workers who were fully inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine were infected by the coronavirus, which is now raging through Southeast Asia.

The 618 cases were among the 677,348 medical staff who had received two doses of the Chinese-developed coronavirus vaccine between April to July, government data show. Among those infected are a nurse who died and a health-care worker in critical condition.

A Thai health official said Sunday that an expert panel has recommended administering a third dose to at-risk medical workers, adding that the booster shot would be either one from Oxford-AstraZeneca or a messenger RNA vaccine made by either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. The country is set to receive 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the United States this month.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Russia on Sunday reported over 25,000 new infections for the third day in a row, with the daily death toll continuing to hover at over 700. Many of the cases are of the delta variant.
  • BioNTech’s Chinese sales agent said it agreed to sell 10 million vaccine doses to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Taiwanese billionaire Terry Gou’s foundation. But TSMC and Gou’s company said that they were still in negotiations; Taipei had previously accused Beijing of blocking its attempts to acquire the vaccine.
  • The United States is sending 3 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine to Indonesia, which is being battered by the virus, with another 1 million doses to come. Meanwhile, 2 million doses of the vaccine arrived in Vietnam, which is struggling to quash an outbreak.
  • South Africa extended its nighttime curfew and a ban on alcohol sales for another two weeks. It has logged more infections than any other country on the continent, and only about 3 percent of the population has been fully inoculated.
  • Europe’s bid to reach herd immunity through vaccination faces a significant hurdle: undocumented immigrants who may be excluded from inoculation programs and have deep distrust toward authorities.

The number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia has been relatively low until this year. But many countries in the region are now facing the highly contagious delta variant with low vaccination rates: Only about 5 percent of people in Thailand and Indonesia are fully vaccinated.

The region’s vaccination shortage has been plugged in part by Chinese-made shots, but health experts, including some in China, have raised concerns about the Sinovac vaccine’s efficacy against the delta variant.

In Indonesia, at least 131 health-care workers, many of whom were inoculated with the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, have died since June.

Thailand has recorded more than 345,000 coronavirus cases and 2,791 deaths. Last week, the Southeast Asian kingdom announced new curbs in Bangkok, the capital, and nine provinces in an attempt to slow transmission of the virus. The tightened rules include travel restrictions, a curfew and limits on the size of gatherings.

Vietnam also has also moved to restrict gatherings. In major metropolises like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, people are allowed to leave their homes only for certain purposes, including purchasing food and medicine. On Monday, the government began restricting movement in the city of Can Tho for 14 days, Reuters reported.

The country had been a model of virus containment until May, when a spike in infections began. A third of the 30,000-plus cases Vietnam has logged since the start of the pandemic came over the past week.

Malaysia, too, has reported more than 57,000 new cases from July 4 to July 11. Indonesia, which has logged more than 243,000 new cases over the same time period, is struggling with a shortage of oxygen supplies amid a surge in the country.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Friday that the Biden administration is dispatching 3 million vaccine doses to Indonesia and would also otherwise increase assistance.

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