Welcome to Medical Channel Asia’s regular segment, the weekly Asian medical news bulletin. Each week, we will bring you essential medical news from within the region to keep you up-to-day on the healthcare industry. This week, we look at the developments in healthcare, the COVID-19 vaccines and other news from across the region.
With the easing of COVID-19 regulation, the Philippines have also replaced the health declaration form that travellers are required to fill out with a simpler e-Arrival card. The country has reopened and has stopped requiring RT-PCR tests for arrivals since May 30.
The Philippines is also easing its stance on mask use, as President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr is set to release an executive order making the wearing of face masks indoors voluntary. The use of masks in public transportation will still be required.
Vietnam has confirmed its first case of avian flu in more than 8 years. A five-year-old girl in northern Phu Tho province tested positive for the virus. 65 samples have been collected from close contacts and all have tested negative. It is currently unclear how the girl got the virus. The World Health Organisation said in a statement last week that the H5N8 strain, which was detected in Vietnam has a low chance of human-to-human spreading.
Indonesia’s spike of acute kidney failure cases has reached 259 patients, of which 157 patients have passed. The surge of cases was due to people who consume syrup medicines contaminated with the hazardous chemicals Ethylene Glycol (EG), Diethylene Glycol (DEG), and Ethylene Glycol Butyl Ether (EGBE).
The Indonesia Health Ministry has revoked 1,100 permits for drugs containing solvents and suspected to contain EG, DEG, and EGBE. The ministry is also considering prosecution against two pharmaceutical firms that made products believed to be linked to the cases. Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin also believes the injection of Fomepizole can be used to cure patients with acute kidney failure, and the medicine is currently being imported from Singapore.
The Thailand government has legalized abortion up to the 20th week of pregnancy, up from the previous legal limit of 12 weeks. Abortion was criminalized as recently as February 2020, when the Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled that anti-abortion laws were unconstitutional. While the move signals a favourable step forward for women’s rights, an opinion piece in the national newspaper Bangkok Post called for more work to be done to change the attitudes of medical professionals and provide more support for safe abortions.
Mental health continues to be a topic in Thailand, where experts warn depression is becoming a major illness for the elderly. The number of suicides among the aged has risen in the past five years and experts warn that if not much is being done, the number will continue to rise as Thailand becomes a ‘super-aged’ society where one in four Thais will be over 65 years old.
Two new Omicron subvariants, BQ.1 and BQ1.1, have been detected in Singapore. This comes as Health Minister Ong Ye Kung stated that the number of current COVID-19 cases has peaked and is expected to come down. He also stated that about one in five cases are reinfections.
The health ministry is also rolling out the Moderna/Spikevax bivalent vaccine, an updated vaccine that will replace the current mRNA vaccines as recommended by the expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination. This will result in about 10% of the current vaccine inventory from being unused.
A flying doctor service has been suspended following a helicopter crash in the Cameron Highlands. The helicopter was carrying a medical team including a doctor as part of the Kinta district health office’s flying doctor unit, which has been suspended as a result. The service is expected to resume in a few days following safety assessments and discussions with the aircraft operator. The passengers were found alive with live injuries. Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin stated that the service provides healthcare to rural areas, especially in Orang Asli settlements in Gua Musang, Kelantan, as well as in Hulu Perak and other nearby areas.