• As of 19 June 2020, 246,318 positive COVID-19 cases were confirmed in East Asia and Pacific, with 9,589 deaths. Among these, Indonesia (41,431) and Philippines (27,238) are the worst affected. New cases detected in Beijing over the past several days have led to fears of a second wave of infections, prompting some measures and restrictions to be reinstated in the affected areas.
• Low coverage and access to essential health and nutrition services amid COVID-19 may lead to adverse health outcomes, such as outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases due to low rates of routine immunization.
• UNICEF continues supporting governments with the “Back to School Campaign”.
So far, 12 countries in East Asia and Pacific have started the gradual reopening of schools. In countries where schools are not open, UNICEF supports the continued learning of over 68 million distance learners and is providing 50 million people with mental and psychosocial support.
• UNICEF continues supporting governments with their infection prevention and control (IPC) measures as well as communicating lifesaving and accurate information on COVID-19. To date, UNICEF with its partners reached over 788 million people with COVID-19 messages in the region.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline in most countries across the region. However, Indonesia (41,431 cases) and Philippines (27,238 cases) continue to see increases. New cases detected in Beijing over the past several days have led to fears of a second wave of infections, prompting some measures and restrictions to be reinstated in the affected areas. More cases are foreseen with the loosening of lockdowns; therefore, countries in the region are already developing guidelines on operational protocols for reopening of business, movement in public areas, use of transportation etc. Restrictions on border crossings and flight operations still remain in effect.
The pandemic continues to have an adverse effect on the continuity of health services. Low coverage and access to essential health and nutrition services amid COVID-19 may lead to adverse health outcomes, such as outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases due to low rates of immunization. Routine immunization coverage has decreased in some countries across the region over the past several months, including Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. While coverage is starting to improve in some countries, challenges remain in closing the gap for those who missed out on vaccinations during the lockdowns, increasing the risk of measles, polio, diphtheria and pertussis outbreaks.
Meanwhile, the consequences of lockdowns, including economic impacts for families, continue to adversely affect the wellbeing of children and young people, including an increased risk of school dropout, violence, sexual and genderbased violence (SGBV), exploitation, abuse and neglect. Some countries in the region have noticed increased cases of violence in the last three months. A rapid assessment on the secondary impacts of COVID-19 conducted on children in Papua New Guinea showed that over a quarter of the respondents (27%) say that there was an increase in domestic violence during the State of Emergency, especially physical violence (45%) against women and children. Results from a UNICEF Thailand Youth Survey show that more than 7 in 10 children and young people feel that COVID-19 is affecting their mental health. The lockdown measures also added challenges in provision and access to menstrual hygiene and sanitation. A U-Report survey conducted in Indonesia among 5,843 young adolescents revealed that 25% of them reported challenges getting disposable pads during the pandemic, 17% experienced problems managing menstruation in general during a pandemic, and 55% experienced irregular menstruation cycles due to a variety of reasons including stress.
In the meantime, schools continue to cautiously reopen in China, Viet Nam, Papua New Guinea, several Pacific Islands and Lao PDR. Governments are opting for a gradual and staggered return to school of specific grades and/or number of children. In some countries where schools were used as quarantine sites, those schools are now being emptied and cleaned to resume classes. For children not yet returning to school, online lessons and distance learning continues but remains a challenge, particularly for children without internet access. For families with children not yet returning to school, the cost of providing children with a midday meal (normally provided in school) is a huge challenge.
Continued efforts are needed in order to ensure that the number of new cases do not flare up again and to support health systems, communities and families to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. In order to support governments in meeting these challenges, UNICEF is working with governments and partners across the region.