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Top Asian News 3:44 a.m. GMT

July 3, 2021 GMT

Indonesia caught between surge and slow vaccine rollout

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Sri Dewi stood in the graveyard with her family, waiting their turn to bury her brother. He suffered a stroke and needed oxygen, but there wasn’t any in a hospital overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. “We took him to this hospital, but there was no room for him,” said Dewi. “The hospital was out of oxygen.” The family finally bought an oxygen tank at a shop and brought the brother home, but he died later that evening. After a slow vaccination rollout, Indonesia is now racing to inoculate as many people as possible as it battles an explosion of COVID-19 cases that have strained its health care.

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Thai virus surge prompts concern over ICUs, vaccine supply

BANGKOK (AP) — Health authorities in Thailand reported over 6,200 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, setting a record for a third straight day, as concerns mounted over shortages of treatment facilities and vaccine supplies. Officials also reported 41 deaths, bringing the total to 2,181. Around 90% of Thailand’s over 271,000 reported coronavirus cases and 95% of the deaths have been recorded during a surge that began in early April. There were 992 deaths in June, more than 15 times Thailand’s total for all of 2020. The number of patients in ICUs and on ventilators has risen nationwide over the past two weeks.

US vacates key Afghan base; pullout target now ‘late August’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 20 years after invading Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida, the U.S. military has vacated its biggest airfield in the country, advancing a final withdrawal that the Pentagon on Friday said will be completed by the end of August. President Joe Biden had instructed the Pentagon to complete the military withdrawal by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, but the Pentagon now says it can finish the drawdown a little earlier. In fact, the drawdown is already largely completed and officials had said it could be wrapped up this weekend.

Experts question if WHO should lead pandemic origins probe

BEIJING (AP) — As the World Health Organization draws up plans for the next phase of its probe of how the coronavirus pandemic started, an increasing number of scientists say the U.N. agency it isn’t up to the task and shouldn’t be the one to investigate. Numerous experts, some with strong ties to WHO, say that political tensions between the U.S. and China make it impossible for an investigation by the agency to find credible answers. They say what’s needed is a broad, independent analysis closer to what happened in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The first part of a joint WHO-China study of how COVID-19 started concluded in March that the virus probably jumped to humans from animals and that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.” The next phase might try to examine the first human cases in more detail or pinpoint the animals responsible — possibly bats, perhaps by way of some intermediate creature.

WHO decision challenges West to recognize Chinese vaccines

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization said Thursday that any COVID-19 vaccines it has authorized for emergency use should be recognized by countries as they open up their borders to inoculated travelers. The move could challenge Western countries to broaden their acceptance of two apparently less effective Chinese vaccines, which the U.N. health agency has licensed but most European and North American countries have not. In addition to vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, the WHO has also given the green light to the two Chinese jabs, made by Sinovac and Sinopharm. In its aim to restore travel across Europe, the European Union said in May that it would only recognize people as vaccinated if they had received shots licensed by the European Medicines Agency — although it’s up to individual countries if they wish to let in travelers who have received other vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V.

A timeline of more than 40 years of war in Afghanistan

The former Soviet Union marched into Afghanistan on Christmas Eve, 1979, claiming it was invited by the new Afghan communist leader, Babrak Karmal, and setting the country on a path of 40 years of seemingly endless wars and conflict. After the Soviets left in humiliation, America was the next great power to wade in. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. invaded to oust the Taliban regime, which had harbored al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. After nearly 20 years, the U.S. is ending its war in Afghanistan, withdrawing the last American troops. Left behind is the U.S.-allied government, riven by corruption and divisions, which must fend off advancing Taliban insurgents amid stalled peace talks.

Anxious Afghans fear tomorrow; many seeking to leave

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Imtiaz Mohmand, just 19, makes a living selling melons out of a crate perched on his three-wheel motorcycle in the Afghan capital’s Kart-e-Now neighborhood. He only managed to finish grade 7 before being sent to work to help support a family of 13. He has been robbed twice. Both times, his mobile phone was taken, along with his meager earnings of the day. In four days, he and four friends will leave Afghanistan. They have paid a smuggler to sneak them across the border to Iran and into Turkey. “There’s no job, no security here. There are thieves everywhere.

EXPLAINER: When is the US war in Afghanistan really over?

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the last U.S. combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, the question arises: When is the war really over? For Afghans the answer is clear but grim: no time soon. An emboldened Taliban insurgency is making battlefield gains, and prospective peace talks are stalled. Some fear that once foreign forces are gone, Afghanistan will dive deeper into civil war. Though degraded, an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State extremist network also lurks. For the United States and its coalition partners, the endgame is murky. Although all combat troops and 20 years of accumulated war materiel will soon be gone, the head of U.S Central Command, Gen.

Anti-India protests after troops kill 5 rebels in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Five suspected rebels and an army soldier were killed Friday in a gunfight in Indian-controlled Kashmir which triggered anti-India protests and clashes between government forces and local residents, officials said. The gunfight erupted shortly after scores of counterinsurgency police and soldiers launched an operation based on a tip that militants were present in a village in southern Pulwama district late Thursday, police said. Police said five militants were killed in Friday’s firefight, and an Indian soldier wounded overnight died in a military hospital. Inspector-General Vijay Kumar called the operation a “big success.” As the fighting raged, anti-India protests broke out in the neighborhood in solidarity with the rebels.

India virus death toll tops 400,000; experts say it’s higher

NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Friday crossed the grim milestone of more than 400,000 people lost to the coronavirus, a number that though massive is still thought to be a vast undercount because of a lack of testing and reporting. More than half of India’s reported coronavirus deaths — the third most of any country — have occurred over the past two months as the delta variant of the virus tore through the country and overwhelmed the already strained health system. New cases are on the decline after exceeding 400,000 a day in May, but authorities are preparing for another possible wave and are trying to ramp up vaccination.