South-east Asian countries, including nations that managed to control the coronavirus last year, are struggling to contain recent outbreaks as new variants and vaccine shortages leave populations exposed.
Thailand’s cumulative caseload has more than quadrupled since 1 April, rising to almost 130,000, after infections spread in its cramped prisons, densely populated areas of the capital and construction sites.
In neighbouring Malaysia, field ICUs are being established to cope with the increase in patients with severe illness, while one hospital converted a shipping container to a makeshift morgue because its facility was overrun. The country reported almost 7,000 cases on Sunday.
Vietnam and Singapore – both widely praised for their success in containing the coronavirus – are also racing to contain clusters, and have introduced lockdown measures.
Cases are far lower than the peaks seen in other areas of the world, but health experts say the outbreaks are a warning sign that vaccines must be distributed more evenly.