The highly-infectious Covid-19 variant first detected in India threatens to rapidly spread in the sub-region, including among refugees, the UN refugee agency has said as it warned of vaccine shortages in the Asia-Pacific region, including for asylum-seekers. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic, at a press briefing in Geneva, said that the fragile health systems in many countries in the Asia and Pacific region have struggled to cope with the recent surge of coronavirus cases. “We are particularly worried about the situation in the Asia and Pacific region, which in the past two months has experienced the largest increase in the number of cases globally,” he said. Over this period, there have been some 38 million recorded Covid-19 cases and more than half a million deaths, the UNHCR spokesperson said. The lack of hospital beds, oxygen supplies, limited Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacities and scarce health facilities and services have worsened outcomes for those infected with Covid-19, particularly in India and Nepal. The highly infectious variant of the virus which first emerged in India threatens to rapidly spread in the sub-region, including among refugee populations, Mahecic said. The B.1.617 Covid-19 variant, first detected in India, is divided in three lineages: B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3. The B16172 strain – rechristened ‘Delta’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has said that only B.1.617.2 is now a variant of concern, observing that lower rates of transmission have been observed for the other two lineages, making them no longer variants of concern. The B.1.617.2 is now labelled variant Delta and has been reported in 62 countries as of June 1. With Covid-19 raging in many parts of the world, the UNHCR warned of shortages of vaccines in the Asia-Pacific region, including for refugees and asylum-seekers. UNHCR spokesperson Mahecic said: We urge an immediate and stronger support for the COVAX initiative, a worldwide effort aimed at achieving equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. “This is critical to save lives and curb the impact of the virus, particularly in developing nations. These countries host the vast majority of more than 80 million forcibly displaced people in the world. Yet so far, they have benefited from only a fraction of the world’s Covid-19 vaccines.