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Asia-Pacific Region COVID-19 Situation Report: January - May 2021

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Situation In Numbers

34,202,886 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases

475,579 COVID-19 Deaths

Source: WHO, 19 May 2021

Regional Situation

The trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic took an acute turn in late March with a dramatic spike in case numbers and deaths across the Asia Pacific region. Several countries are reporting the highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic including India, Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, the Philippines and Fiji. The increase in the number of infections has taken less time compared to the previous waves, and the evidence of extensive transmission of the different variants of concern (VOCs) in multiple countries across the region (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) are also worrisome. Some variants appear to be more aggressive and more transmissible,

The South East Asia region saw as high as up to 63% increase in new cases in mid-April - the highest increase across all regions. In India, new cases are reaching in excess of 400,000 per day with the cumulative total of confirmed cases greater than 25 million as of May 19th. Notable increases are also being observed in the Philippines, which saw as high as 10,000 new cases per day in April, and a total cumulative caseload of over 1.1 million as of May 19th. Nepal has reached a peak of 9,238 daily new cases on May 13th, the highest ever recorded and with the highest positivity rates. In Iran, there are as high as 24,000 new cases a day, with the cumulative total now close to 2.8 million as of May 19th, followed by Indonesia with over 1.7 million. Maldives has the highest number of cases per capita globally, given its small and yet dense population.

While UNFPA have responded to pregnant women’s reduced access to health facilities and skilled midwives, it is anticipated that the current spike in COVID-19 cases will further overstrain health care systems, impacting on their access to health facilities and UNFPA’s ability to deliver against its goals, including ending preventable maternal deaths.

It is certain that the ongoing spread will further disrupt the provision of public health care services, lead to a continued deterioration of the economic situation, further impact on supply chains, and consequently reduce access, availability and utilisation of family planning. This in turn will inevitably lead to more unintended pregnancies and affect UNFPA’s ability to achieve zero unmet need for family planning.

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing Gender-based Violence (GBV) and harmful practices and is likely to deepen gender inequalities. In spite of the investments by UNFPA and partners to mitigate, prevent and respond to GBV, given the recent surge of cases, it is expected that the access to services will be further compromised.

The current situation creates a real threat to the generation of high quality population statistics, in contexts where there is no credible alternative to the census and despite the critical need for such statistical information. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases also disrupts the design and implementation of population ageing programmes as capacity and focus is diverted and critical activities are postponed.