As news circulated of a worrying new virus spreading in the Chinese city of Wuhan in the early days of 2020, experts worried that infections would quickly reach South-East Asia and overwhelm the region’s health-care systems. Thailand was one of the main destinations for Chinese tourists; the first case outside China was reported there on January 13th, 2020. The first known death from covid-19 outside China occurred in the Philippines. A Chinese tourist who had visited Indonesia from Wuhan tested positive on returning home, suggesting he took the virus on holiday with him.
Yet it was Iran and Italy that became the first global hotspots. America, the rest of Europe and Brazil were soon engulfed. India got walloped. All through 2020 and the early part of this year, South-East Asia remained relatively unscathed. By the start of June, the region of 668m people had reported fewer than 77,000 deaths from the disease. Britain, with a tenth as many people, had chalked up more than 128,000. South-East Asia, it seemed, had escaped the worst of the pandemic.
Publication Date: 7 Sept 2021
Publication Site: The Economist