NEW DELHI: The highly contagious COVID-19 form, which was initially discovered in India, "threatens" to spread fast throughout the sub-region especially among refugees, according to the UN refugee agency, which also warned of vaccination shortages in the Asia-Pacific area particularly for asylum seekers.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic on Tuesday said that the fragile health systems in many Asian and Pacific nations have failed to cope with the recent rise in coronavirus cases.
"We are particularly concerned about the situation in Asia and the Pacific, which has seen the biggest increase in the number of cases internationally in the last two months," he added.
According to the UNHCR spokesperson, there have been 38 million COVID-19 cases and more than half a million deaths throughout this time.
"Infections with COVID-19 have worsened as a result of a lack of hospital beds, oxygen supplies, limited Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity and insufficient health facilities and services, particularly in India and Nepal. The virus's highly infectious variant which first appeared in India, is threatening to spread swiftly throughout the sub-region, including among refugee populations”, Andrej Mahecic said.
The COVID-19 variant B.1.617, which was first detected in India, is split into three lineages: B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only B.1.617.2 is now a "variant of concern," with the other two lineages showing lower rates of transmission and so no longer being considered variants of concern.
As of June 1, the B.1.617.2 has been classified as variant Delta and has been reported in 62 countries.
The UNHCR warned of vaccine shortages in the Asia-Pacific region, including for refugees and asylum seekers, as COVID-19 raged in many regions of the world.
"We urge quick and increased support for the COVAX initiative, a worldwide targeted at achieving equal access to COVID-19 vaccines," Mahecic said.
"This is crucial in order to save lives and reduce the virus's impact especially in developing countries. These countries host the vast majority of the world's more than 80 million forcibly displaced people. Despite this, they have only received a small portion of the world's COVID-19 vaccines ".
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) emphasized that no one should be left behind in the global effort against the coronavirus.
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