Strict isolation rules for foreigners and mandating mass masking have helped slow the spread of the highly contagious form of the coronavirus. Japan, South Korea and Thailand have reimposed entry and quarantine restrictions in recent weeks, while they have been eased in the past.
But the cases are increasing and experts say that the next few months are going to be crucial. “Once the pace picks up, the cases will start rising very rapidly,” said Dr Shigeru Omi, a top medical adviser to the Japanese government.
With India returning to normalcy after the devastating COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, Omicron is once again creating fear with over 700 cases in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people.
Australia is already dealing with several cases of COVID-19, with a state leader saying on Wednesday that “Omicron is moving very quickly.”
In addition, there have been 700 cases in Thailand, more than 500 in South Korea and over 300 in Japan. China, which has imposed some of the strictest virus controls in the world, also has reported at least eight cases.
There have been only four cases in the Philippines, where people flocked to shopping malls before Christmas and for congregational prayers in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation. Experts say that some hospitals have even started dismantling Covid-19 wards but this may prove to be a premature step.
Japan was helped to contain the spread of the new pattern, which included reimposing entry restrictions, mandatory COVID-19 screening for all arrivals, and isolating all passengers on a flight if they tested positive for the Omicron form. Steps such as isolation are involved.
But that containment weakened last week when the first locally transmitted cases were confirmed in the neighboring cities of Osaka and Kyoto.
Taiwan, where the wearing of masks is mandatory in major cities, has begun providing additional doses of the modern vaccine.
Early research shows that additional doses of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccines are effective despite reduced protection against Omicron.