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From Afghanistan to the Maldives: How India’s SAARC partners are faring in their fight against Covid

India’s SAARC partners — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — are also experiencing a surge in Covid cases. While some are succeeding at reigning in the outbreak, others have not been quite as lucky. 

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 5, 2021 1:59:51 pm
A man receives a dose of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine from a health worker at a vaccination center, in Karachi, Pakistan (AP Photo)

While some parts of the world appear to emerging from intensive lockdowns as Coronavirus numbers slowly start to wane, several countries across Asia continue to grapple with a rapid rise in cases, largely attributed to the highly-transmissible Delta variant and low vaccination rates. 

In India, states are preparing for a possible third wave of the pandemic. The seven-day average of new Covid cases has been rising in the past two weeks. India’s SAARC partners — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — are also experiencing a surge in Covid cases. 

While some are succeeding at reigning in the outbreak, others have not been quite as lucky. 

Here is a breakdown of the Covid situation in SAARC countries 


Migrant people and workers get off an overcrowded ferry as they are returning to the capital city after government has decided to reopen exports industries including garment factories amid countywide lockdown at Mawa ferry terminal in Munshiganj, Bangladesh, August 1, 2021. (REUTERS)

Bangladesh has been grappling with a worsening Covid crisis, as nearly all hospital beds and ICU wards have filled up with Coronavirus patients. To make matters worse, the country recently started reporting a spike in dengue cases, which is straining its already feeble healthcare system. 

On July 1, everything in Bangladesh — from markets to public transportation — was ordered to shut, in an attempt to reign in the contagion. Yet the number of virus deaths did not decline significantly. The restrictions were then eased for a two week period, so that people could celebrate Eid. A stricter 14-day lockdown was imposed soon after. 

Public health experts have criticised the government’s handling of the Covid crisis. 

In July, India dispatched several containers of liquid medical oxygen to Bangladesh via a train dubbed “Oxygen Express”. Earlier this year, India also sent a consignment of free Covid vaccines to the country. 


The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan was able to fully vaccinate 90 per cent of its eligible adult population within just a week, its health ministry announced last month. In what the UNICEF has called “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic”, the country, home to nearly 800,000 people, was able to inoculate majority of its population with the help of vaccines provided by the global COVAX program. 

The kingdom has been one of the most successful in combating Covid, largely due to early planning and quick response — closing borders, conducting mass testing and imposing restrictions soon after the pandemic began claiming its first few victims. 

According to experts, AP reported, Bhutan’s success in comparison to countries in South Asia highlights the strength of government efforts and community outreach over just the availability of vaccines.


A few weeks after Nepal relaxed Covid-induced prohibitory orders, the country recorded a sharp surge in Covid cases. On Wednesday, Nepal registered its highest single-day spike of 4,107 new cases. 

Since July, the authorities have been easing provisions of lockdown. On July 4, public and private transportation services restarted and shops were allowed to reopen for longer hours. 


Disinfectant is sprayed in a market area in an effort to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus, in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

The country has witnessed a sharp rise in cases, fuelled in part by the Delta variant. By the end of May, around a third of cases were linked to the Delta variant. In response, Pakistan has imposed lockdowns in parts of the country. 

The fact that less than 3 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated has contributed to the surge. 

Sri Lanka 

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka lifted its three month inter-provincial travel ban as the Covid vaccination drive picked up pace in the country. However, public health officials have been critical of the government’s decision, particularly considering the fact that cases have been steadily rising largely due to the Delta variant. 

In recent weeks, the country has recorded a doubling in daily Covid-19 cases to around 2,000 compared to early July, with hospitals struggling to keep up. 

The Maldives 

The impact of the pandemic last year left the tourism-dependent economy of the Maldives reeling. But in recent months, the country has once again opened up for tourists. The recent rebound of tourism has offered a glimmer of hope. 

The government resumed the issuing of on arrival tourist visas on July 15. Cases exploded in May, when the number of deaths also shot up significantly. 

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