May 3, 2021 - World

Pandemic's global toll rises even as rich world starts to move on

Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

We seem to have arrived at a fork in the pandemic: Pockets of the rich world are beginning to move past COVID-19, while some less-fortunate countries are facing greater danger than ever.

Consider this: The World Health Organization said today that more cases had been recorded globally over the last two weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic, driven largely by an unprecedented surge in India and the ongoing onslaught in Brazil.

  • India is now recording around 3,500 deaths per day, and the true rate could be two to five times that many, according to University of Michigan epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been accused of failing to prepare for a second wave while prioritizing a contentious regional election — which the ruling party lost — even as the wave was crashing down. It’s now resisting calls for new national restrictions, though several states have already locked down.
  • Countries around the world continue to promise oxygen and other supplies. In the meantime, reports continue to emerge of hospitals in New Delhi and elsewhere running out.

In Europe, a fourth wave has begun to subside. Governments hope it’s the last one they’ll face, and they’re preparing for life after the pandemic.

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is planning to lift restrictions in the coming days for individuals who have been vaccinated.
  • That could lead temporarily to a two-tiered society within Germany, with the mainly older people who’ve been vaccinated no longer subject to curfews and other measures.

The state of play: 28% of Germans have now had at least one dose, up from 12% one month ago as the EU continues to shake off its sluggish start to the vaccine rollout.

  • In the U.S., where 45% of the population has been vaccinated, demand is now a bigger issue than supply.
  • Cases and deaths both continue to fall, leading to hopes that the U.S. could now be on a trajectory similar to Israel’s, where just 13 new cases were recorded on Saturday at a test positivity rate of 0.1%.
  • In India, meanwhile, 9% of the population has had one dose. There will be a shortage of supply at least until July, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla told the FT.
  • Australia today made it a criminal offense for its citizens to return from India. A number of other countries have banned all travel from India but exempted their own citizens.

Meanwhile, the European Commission today proposed a plan to ease travel restrictions for tourists who have been fully vaccinated.

  • The recommendation could be adopted by the European Union's 27 member states as early as May 5, paving the way for the return of summer travel to one of the world's most popular tourism destinations, Axios’ Zach Basu writes.

The bottom line: The world is opening up to those with access to vaccines. But that doesn’t mean the pandemic is anywhere near over.

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