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The stark global divide in the Covid-19 pandemic

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Bodies arrive at a mass cremation site in New Delhi on April 23. A second wave of Covid-19 has been devastating India. (Atul Loke/The New York Times/Redux)

In the fight against the coronavirus, some countries are faring better than others.

In the United States, for example, cases have been dropping as more and more people get vaccinated. President Joe Biden has set a goal to have at least 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by the July Fourth holiday.

But in India, a second wave of Covid-19 has been devastating, killing thousands of people a day and setting world records for daily infections. Medical facilities have started to run out of oxygen, ventilators and beds, and workers have been stretched thin.

“After successfully tackling the first wave, the nation’s morale was high, it was confident,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his monthly radio program. “But this storm has shaken the nation.”

Here’s how various countries around the world are holding up in their fight against Covid-19:

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India

India is in the middle of a coronavirus catastrophe while facing a second wave of cases. The South Asian country is experiencing the world’s worst outbreak, with new cases surging past 400,000 per day.

Experts and patients say India’s worst-hit cities feel like war zones. Hospitals have run out of basic medical supplies, with many patients dying due to oxygen shortages. Family members are driving from clinic to clinic, frantically searching for open intensive-care beds. Patients share beds or lie on the hospital floor.

Communities and volunteers have set up makeshift clinics, and makeshift crematoriums have been needed to handle the amount of bodies.

The government has been scrambling to respond to the crisis, with countries around the world offering aid.

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A Covid-19 patient receives oxygen in a parked car while waiting for a hospital bed to become available in New Delhi on April 25. (Atul Loke/The New York Times/Redux)
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Urns containing ashes of people — including those who died from Covid-19 — await immersion at a crematorium in New Delhi on May 6. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

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United States

President Joe Biden has circled the July Fourth holiday in the nation’s fight against Covid-19.

He announced a goal last week to have at least 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by that day, and he wants to see 70% of adult Americans with at least one shot by then.

“We’re going to make it easier than ever to get vaccinated,” Biden said.

As of Thursday morning, almost 59% of American adults had at least one shot and more than 117 million adult Americans — nearly 46% of that population — were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cases per day are falling. On Monday, for the first time since September, the 7-day average dropped below 40,000 new cases per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Unfortunately, vaccination rates have fallen as well. Vaccine hesitancy has been a challenge in some states. In Wyoming, for example, more than a quarter of adults said that they will “definitely not” or “probably not” receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a survey from the US Census Bureau. In four additional states — Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky and Ohio — more than 20% of adults said the same.

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Yoshia Uomoto, 98, reacts as her son Mark Uomoto and niece Gail Yamada surprise her at her assisted-living facility in Seattle on March 30. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, it was their first in-person visit in a year. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)
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Family members look on as Jack Frilingos, 12, receives a Covid-19 vaccine in Decatur, Georgia, on May 11. It was a day after the US Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for the 12-15 age group. (Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters)

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Argentina

Argentina seemed to have been spared the worst of the pandemic last year.

But a second wave of the virus this spring has seen cases rise dramatically, provoking oxygen shortages that pushed hospitals across the country to the brink of collapse. More than 3.2 million cases have been diagnosed in Argentina so far, and more than 69,000 people there have died from Covid-19.

President Alberto Fernández extended lockdown measures until May 21. Social gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. The government has also agreed to postpone primary and midterm elections originally scheduled for the fall.

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Medical personnel work in the intensive-care unit of the Florencio Varela Clinic in Buenos Aires on April 28. (Juan Ignacio Roncoroni/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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Religious iconography sits above oxygen tanks in an intensive-care unit at a Buenos Aires hospital on April 29. (Juan Ignacio Roncoroni/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

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United Kingdom

The United Kingdom started 2021 as one of the world’s worst-affected countries. Fast forward four months, and it seems as though the combination of a strict lockdown and a swift vaccination rollout has worked to bring infection levels down.

The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 has been dropping fast. England, Scotland and Northern Ireland reported no new coronavirus deaths on May 9 — the first time that had happened in more than 14 months.

As of early May, more than two-thirds of all adults in the United Kingdom have received at least one dose of a vaccine. More than a third have been fully vaccinated.

The drop in new infections has allowed authorities to push ahead with their plans to reopen the economy, although international travel remains severely restricted.

Indoor dining and entertainment return in mid-May, although with restrictions on capacity. And soon, people will be officially allowed to hug others from outside of their household.

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Fans watch the band Blossom perform at a concert in Liverpool, England, on May 2. Attendees needed to test negative for Covid-19 before being allowed in. It was a trial event to provide data on how other venues might be able to reopen. (Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)
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A waitress serves guests in protective domes outside the Black Dog Restaurant and Bar in Chester, England, on April 12. Coronavirus restrictions were eased across England in step two of the government’s road map out of lockdown. (Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

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South Africa

South Africa has remained the epicenter of the pandemic in Africa, and disruptions in the country’s vaccination program have not aided the situation.

More than 1.6 million South Africans have been infected with Covid-19, while fewer than 500,000 people have so far been fully vaccinated. Confirmed Covid-19 deaths have also surged to more than 55,000.

In February, South African health authorities suspended the rollout of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 shot after a study found that it offered limited protection against mild and moderate disease caused by a virus variant first detected in the country.

Last month, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize also announced a temporary suspension of the country’s rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following global reports linking the shot to a rare and severe form of blood clots.

Although the country has since resumed the use of the Johnson & Johnson shot — in a large-scale trial for health workers — the country is yet to begin its full vaccine rollout. That is set to begin on May 17.

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A health worker screens visitors for Covid-19 symptoms at the a hospital in Tembisa, South Africa, on March 1. (Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images)
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Ballet dancers rehearse at the Joburg Theater in Johannesburg on April 1. The Joburg Ballet returned to the stage later that month, just over a year after its season was cut short because of a national lockdown. (Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

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Turkey

On May 17, Turkey will come out of its longest lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic.

Its leadership has been very clear — its aim is to bring daily Covid-19 cases below 5,000 before the start of the summer tourist season.

Turkey reported a record number of new infections in mid-April, with more than 60,000 cases per day. Since then, increasingly strict measures since the start of the holy month of Ramadan have brought the spread down to around 15,000 daily cases.

But the recent drop in infections may not be enough to salvage the tourist season, with the United Kingdom putting Turkey on its visitor “red list” and Russia suspending flights. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tried to reassure travelers in a news conference last week, saying that everyone who works in the tourism industry will be vaccinated by June.

Turkey started its immunization campaign in January with China’s Biotech Sinovac vaccine and later added doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot. Ankara has also inked a deal with Moscow for the procurement and later production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Turkey is also looking to develop its own vaccine.

The country of 82 million people has administered more than 25 million vaccine doses. More than 10 million people are fully vaccinated. The rollout has slowed in recent weeks, however, with Turkey’s health minister warning that May and June would be tough months for vaccine procurement.

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Muslims obey social-distancing rules at the Faith Mosque in Istanbul on May 7. (Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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A man walks on an empty street in Istanbul on May 7, during a three-week nationwide lockdown that ends on May 17. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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Brazil

Brazilians saw a parade of current and former health ministers testify last week about the country’s catastrophic Covid-19 handling, as lawmakers investigated whom to blame for one of the highest death tolls in the world. More than 430,000 lives have been lost to coronavirus in Brazil, second only to the United States.

While the probe grinds on, Covid-19 is still spreading through the population, fueled by extra-contagious local variants and widespread disregard for social-distancing rules — a behavior modeled at the highest levels of government by bombastic President Jair Bolsonaro. More than a third of all deaths since the year began have been linked to Covid-19.

Prospects are slight for a national recovery and reconciliation anytime soon. Despite the country’s one-time reputation as a public-health powerhouse, Brazil’s vaccination rollout has also been slowed by lack of supply. Less than 8% of the population is fully vaccinated.

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Elizabeth Nader, 74, is accompanied by her granddaughter as she waits for an ambulance to take her to a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil, on April 16. (Eraldo Peres/AP)
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A gravedigger walks among graves of Covid-19 victims at a cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, on April 29. (Michael Dantas/AFP/Getty Images)

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Kenya

Earlier this year, Kenya was held in the throes of a third wave of the pandemic, with the majority of cases recorded in the capital Nairobi.

The country went under partial lockdown, with travel blocked to the worst-hit areas to curb the spread of Covid-19.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also temporarily suspended all public gatherings in the worst-affected areas. Schools were shut, except for those taking part in exams. Many of these restrictions have now been mostly lifted.

So far, more than 164,000 people have been infected with Covid-19 in Kenya, with nearly 3,000 deaths recorded.

The vaccine rollout in the country has also been hampered by delays, and many Kenyans are unable to get a second dose of the vaccine.

Through the COVAX scheme, a vaccine-sharing initiative that helps lower-income countries access Covid-19 shots, Kenya received at least 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in early March.

COVAX has relied heavily on Indian developers for supplies, but deliveries have now stalled as India grapples with a violent resurgence of the pandemic.

With more than 930,000 people inoculated in Kenya so far, vaccines are expected to be exhausted in the coming days.

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A medical team rolls a coronavirus patient from a bed onto a stretcher at a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 14. (Brian Inganga/AP)
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A woman receives a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a vaccination campaign is launched for front-line workers in Nairobi on April 21. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

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Nepal

Covid-19 cases are skyrocketing in Nepal, which shares a long, porous border with India. The virus’ rapid spread has raised fears that Nepal is teetering on the brink of a crisis just as devastating as India’s.

Nepal, one of the world’s poorest counties, has a fragile health system, and hospitals are overwhelmed. This week, the country’s Prime Minister was forced to step down following public anger over his response to the Covid-19 issues.

Just a month ago, the Himalayan nation of 31 million people was reporting about 100 Covid-19 cases a day. On Tuesday, it reported 9,483 new cases and 225 virus-related fatalities, according to its health ministry — the highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began.

Although Nepal has tightened borders and imposed lockdowns in its worst-hit regions — including the capital Kathmandu — some fear that won’t be enough to contain the virus as it spreads, even as far as Everest Base Camp.

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Expedition tents are seen at Everest Base Camp on May 1. Reports suggest that even the world’s highest peak isn’t safe from the spread of Covid-19. Climbers there have reported testing positive. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)
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People mourn the loss of a family member in Kathmandu on May 3. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

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Iran

Iran is struggling to contain its fourth wave of the pandemic, with its daily count of new infections higher than ever before.

Hundreds of Iranian cities and towns have been categorized as “Red Zones” and placed under semi-lockdown with all nonessential businesses closed.

Last month, the country’s semi-official news agency ISNA reported that intensive-care units at hospitals in Tehran were running at 100% capacity.

Then the Iranian health ministry warned that the coronavirus variants first identified in India and South Africa have been detected in the country, adding that an outbreak of one of those strains would lead to a nationwide lockdown.

Iran is vaccinating its population with the Russian Sputnik V shot, but the country is also developing its own Covid-19 vaccine. The ministry of health said last month that Phase 3 trials of its Barekat vaccine had begun.

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The body of a man who died from Covid-19 is prepared for a burial at a cemetery just outside of Tehran, Iran, on April 21. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
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A woman wearing a protective face mask and gloves carries her purchases through the Qazvin bazaar northwest of Tehran on April 22. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

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Russia

Russia has been among the world’s worst-hit countries. As of May 14, it had reported 4.8 million coronavirus cases and more than 112,000 deaths.

The real number of victims is likely much higher though. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington has estimated that the number of deaths in Russia is more than five times higher than officially reported. The IMHE analysis is based on a comparison of excess death rate and expected death rates.

Last August, Russia became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, called Sputnik V, even before large-scale human trials had been completed.

The vaccine has since been authorized for use in more than 60 countries, yet demand among Russians has been lukewarm. According to the government, the country of 145 million has fully vaccinated fewer than 10 million people as of early May.

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A man is vaccinated in Moscow on March 23. (Evgeny Sinitsyn/Xinhua/Getty Images)
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Empty beds are seen inside a temporary Covid-19 hospital at a car center in Moscow on April 16. (Valery Sharifulin/TASS/ Getty Images)

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France

After months of suffering, the Covid-19 situation is starting to look somewhat brighter in France.

Infection levels have been declining steadily, and the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus in intensive-care units recently dropped to below 5,000 for the first time since March.

The country initially struggled to get its vaccination campaign up to speed, lagging behind other European nations. In March, French President Emmanuel Macron was forced to admit the start of the campaign was a failure, saying: “We weren’t fast enough, strong enough on it.”

The rollout has since improved, and starting this week all adults are eligible to book appointments to receive their shots.

This has allowed France to sketch the way out of its current restrictions. Schools have reopened and domestic travel restrictions have been lifted, although curbs on events and a nightly curfew remain in place.

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Students raise their hands in Antibes, France, on April 26, after the country’s nurseries and primary schools reopened. (Serge Haouzi/Xinhua/Getty Images)
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People enjoy the sun in the Tuileries Garden in Paris on April 1. (Thibault Camus/AP)

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Nigeria

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is witnessing a gradual surge in Covid-19 infections, although the numbers remain relatively low compared to global infection rates.

More than 165,000 people have caught the virus and at least 2,000 have died from related complications, according to government figures.

So life in Nigeria appears unabated by pandemic worries, and large events and religious gatherings have once again become the norm.

In recent days, and perhaps worried by developments in India, the Nigerian government has reintroduced fresh restrictions against movement and mass gatherings nationwide. Bars and nightclubs remain closed, and a nationwide 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. curfew was reintroduced.

Less than 1% of Nigeria’s population has been vaccinated against Covid-19, despite the country receiving nearly 4 million doses of AstraZeneca shots through the COVAX scheme in early March.

A presidential task force on Covid-19 has already approved the commencement of the second dose of inoculation, though many are yet to receive their first shot.

Last month, Nigeria restricted travel from Brazil, India and Turkey, citing the high incidence of coronavirus infections and deaths in those countries.

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Nigeria’s first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrives at the Abuja airport on March 2. (Abraham Archiga/Reuters)
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Muslims perform an Eid al-Fitr prayer in Lagos, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan on May 13. (Sunday Alamba/AP)





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