The 2-Track Pandemic

Crematorium workers in protective suits tend to the bodies of COVID-19 victims in Kathmandu. May 5, 2021. Image: Prakash Matehma/AFP Getty
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Crematorium workers in protective suits tend to the bodies of COVID-19 victims in Kathmandu. May 5, 2021. Image: Prakash Matehma/AFP Getty

By week’s end, 3.5 million people will face the coronavirus’s fickle threat—from asymptomatic to lethal.
 
While new cases are down substantially from a high of 800,000 per day in April to 500,000 now, the respite from COVID-19 isn’t evenly spread, The New York Times reports.
 
The US sees falling COVID-19 cases and rising visits to bars, restaurants, and vacation spots. However, other countries are reporting spikes:

  • Nepal’s test positivity rate is 40%.
  • Argentina, Malaysia, South Africa, and other countries have reinstituted lockdowns.
  • Paraguay and Uruguay have the highest reported per person fatality rates in the world.

 
What’s behind the disparities? It’s largely about vaccine access. According to a Times database, the number of vaccine doses administered per 100 people:

  • 60 in North America
  • 27 in South America
  • 21 in Asia
  • 2 in Africa

 
Barring exceptional efforts to get vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, COVID-19 will continue to burn across the world.
 
What’s needed? $50 billion for COVAX from wealthy nations to increase manufacturing and access to vaccines and supplies, according to the big 4 (WHO, IMF, World Bank, and the World Trade Organization), STAT reports.

The alternative is “a two-track pandemic” with “richer countries having access and poorer ones being left behind,” the agencies said in a statement.

Related:

AstraZeneca's Rocky Rollout: The Woes Of The 'Vaccine For The World' – NPR’s Goats and Soda

COVID downward spiral in Latin America disrupts life-saving services – PRI’s The World

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