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Jakarta: Indonesia, Iran and France have reported an alarming rise in the number of coronavirus infections, as governments ramp up efforts to vaccinate the population in an effort to stem the spread of the highly contagious mutant delta that is wreaking havoc around the world.
The new cases come as the President of the Olympic Committee acknowledged on Tuesday “doubts” and “sleepless” nights leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, which start on Friday, amid concern and local opposition as a result of the continued spread of the virus.
Nearly 3.7 billion doses of HIV vaccines have been administered globally. But most injections have been given in richer countries, while poorer countries are lagging far behind in immunization efforts.
The highly contagious delta mutant, which first appeared in India, is sweeping the world, causing new surges in Europe and Asia, especially among the immunized, with more than four million deaths from the virus since its appearance.
In Indonesia, cases of the virus have increased, exceeding the numbers recorded in India and Brazil, the two epicenters of the virus in the world, and a new record toll of more than 1,300 deaths was recorded on Monday.
The authorities banned large gatherings, including traditional events, during Eid al-Adha and urged citizens not to hold group prayers.
In the capital, Jakarta, some adhered to the official instructions not to enter mosques and gathered to pray in nearby roads, while a number of Bandung people spread prayer rugs in the alleys.
These measures led to an unconventional feast for some.
“I usually get together with the family for a meal on Eid,” said Bringo Trisumu, who lives near Jakarta. “But this year is very different. I don’t see relatives and can’t go anywhere.”
Most regions of Southeast Asia are suffering from a high incidence of the virus, at a time when the delta mutant is wreaking havoc in countries facing difficulty in the process of spreading the vaccine.
The Philippines warned of an imminent explosion in injuries after it detected the delta mutant, while Thailand imposed on Tuesday partial closure measures for two weeks, affecting 12 million people.
Singapore, which has avoided the worst fallout from the epidemic, said on Tuesday it would restrict the size of gatherings and ban restaurants after a spike in local cases attributed to karaoke bars and a fishing port.
On Monday, nearly a third of Vietnam’s 100 million people were ordered to stay at home.
In Iran, which is suffering the worst damage from the epidemic in the Middle East, the authorities have warned of what could be a “fifth wave” caused by a delta.
Government offices and banks in Tehran and the neighboring province of Alborz were closed for six days from Monday, while most non-essential goods stores, shopping centers and cinemas were closed.
But some citizens question the success of the restrictions in stopping infections, without imposing a nationwide lockdown.
“It won’t be effective,” said Mahdi, an employee at a trading company.
“If people stay home and don’t go anywhere, (the restrictions) may work, but when there is a holiday everyone starts traveling,” he added.
Europe is witnessing a new outbreak of the virus on its lands, due to reasons including the mutated delta and also to ease measures in the summer, when flights are frequent.
France said Tuesday that new infections with Covid-19 are increasing at unprecedented rates, after more than 18,000 cases were recorded during the past 24 hours.
“There has been an increase in the spread of the virus by 150 percent over the past week: we have not seen this before,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said.
The infection rate is the highest since mid-May, when France was emerging from closure measures, the third of its kind nationwide.
And in slightly optimistic news, the European Medicines Agency announced on Tuesday that it had begun a “dissemination review” of the French vaccine against Corona Sanofi, which could lead to its approval in the European Union, joining Pfizer / Piontech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
The increase in HIV infections has spread an atmosphere of discontent ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which start on Friday after it was canceled last year due to the pandemic.
While the games are scheduled to be held without an audience, amid strict measures to reduce the virus, preparations for them have not been spared.
Five injuries were recorded in the Olympic Village, fueling fears that the influx of thousands of athletes, officials and the media will cause a spike in injuries in Japan.
Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Tuesday that the sporting event had caused him suffering, and acknowledged that the road to the Games had not always been smooth.
“Over the past 15 months we have had to make many decisions in a state of uncertainty. We had doubts every day. We deliberated and discussed. There were sleepless nights,” he said.
“It affected us too, it weighed me down. But in order to get to this day, we had to show confidence. We had to show a way out of this crisis.”
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