Countries in South and Southeast Asia must “urgently scale-up aggressive measures” and widespread testing to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further, said World Health Organization officials.

Eight countries in the region have confirmed cases now, with numbers rising in the past week: Thailand, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

“The situation is evolving rapidly, we need to scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO Southeast Asia, in a press release Tuesday.“More clusters of virus transmission are being confirmed. While this is an indication of an alert and effective surveillance, it also puts the spotlight on the need for more aggressive and whole of society efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19. We clearly need to do more, and urgently,” Singh said.

She warned that some countries are “clearly heading towards community transmission of Covid-19.”

  • In Sri Lanka, all incoming flights are suspended for the next two weeks.
  • In India, the Indian Council of Medical Research has asked the WHO for a million test kits, and the government has expanded a travel ban on incoming travelers.
  • The Maldives and Bangladesh confirmed their first cases last week. Bhutan confirmed its first case earlier this month.
  • Indonesia has extended a travel ban across much of Europe and the Middle East, and has suspended some visa services.
  • Thailand was the first country outside China to get the coronavirus. This weekend, it confirmed the largest single-day increase in cases so far.
  • Nepal has canceled all Mount Everest expeditions for the rest of the season — a huge move, given that it’s nearly peak season, and that Everest and tourism are crucial to the country’s economy.

by CNN’s Esha Mitra and Manveena Suri


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