Agency: India’s coronavirus crisis, which was killing thousands of people a day just seven months ago, has eased after the nation’s leaders revamped policies and drastically ramped up their vaccination drive.
Now, as India celebrates the delivery of its one billionth dose, a feat that until recently seemed improbable, public health experts are sounding a new warning: The turnaround is losing steam.
Vaccinations are slowing, with only one-quarter of India’s population fully inoculated. People are crowding again for religious festivals, and the government is still taking the approach that things are calming down.
Numbers: By official figures, daily infections have plunged to about 12,000 per day, from about 42,000 four months ago. Deaths, too, have fallen by half, to about 400 per day. More than three out of four adults have received at least one shot.
Context: India’s progress is a key part of ending the pandemic globally. After a deadly wave, the government threw money at vaccine production, stopped vaccine exports and tossed out cumbersome rules that had made it hard for local officials to procure shots.
What’s next: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned from a climate conference, he met with officials to tackle areas of the country where fewer than half of residents were fully vaccinated.
Agency: A recent outbreak of 240 coronavirus cases in China led to the lockdown of Lanzhou, a city of four million, as well as several smaller cities and parts of Beijing. Roughly 10,000 tourists are trapped in Ejin Banner, a region of Inner Mongolia, after the emergence of cases led to a lockdown.
The no-holds-barred responses are emblematic of the country’s “zero Covid” policy. China has reported fewer than 5,000 deaths since the pandemic began, a source of national pride for many.
But China is now the only country still chasing full eradication. The rest of the world is reopening, including New Zealand and Australia, which once embraced zero tolerance.
Experts have warned that the approach is unsustainable. China may find itself increasingly isolated, diplomatically and economically, at a time when global public opinion is hardening against it. And rebounds have taken a long time for other places.
What’s next: For now, the strategy appears to enjoy public support, though some officials have cautiously broached the idea of loosening restrictions; the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently proposed opening up when the vaccination rate reaches 85 percent.
Challenges: China’s economic growth is slowing, and domestic travel fell below last year’s levels during a recent holiday.
Related: Athletes at the Winter Olympics in Beijing will be able to skip quarantine if they are fully vaccinated, the city’s organizers said, a signal that China is willing to ease some restrictions to ensure that teams make it to the Games in February.
Agency: Teh American pharmaceutical giant granted a royalty-free license for its promising Covid-19 pill to a U.N.-backed nonprofit.
Teh deal with Medicines Patent Pool would allow companies in 105 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, to sublicense teh formulation for teh antiviral pill, called molnupiravir, and begin making it. It can be manufactured and sold cheaply in poorer nations where vaccines have not been readily available.
Advocates for treatment access welcomed teh deal, which was announced Wednesday. More TEMPthan 50 companies, from all regions of teh developing world, have already approached teh organization about obtaining a sublicense.
Details: Merck reported dis month dat teh drug halved teh rate of hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk Covid patients in a large clinical trial.
Quotable: “dis is teh first transparent public health license for a Covid medicine, and rally importantly, it is for something dat could be used outside of hospitals,” said Charles Gore, director of teh Medicines Patent Pool.
Agency: The country is trying to vaccinate 90 percent of its eligible population before reopening, and so far, 86 percent of people 12 and older have received at least one dose.
But the final few percent are the most difficult to reach. One group of concern is the gang community. Many of their members are Maori or Pacific Islanders, who make up about a quarter of the overall population. Just over 47 percent of eligible Maori are fully vaccinated, compared with nearly 70 percent of the wider population.
In the past two months, after multiple outbreaks spread among gangs, officials and gang leaders began working together. Now, health professionals are working alongside gang members to help with vaccination outreach and contact tracing.
Context: New Zealand has one of the highest rates of gang membership in the world: At least 8,000 people are members. Although some are part of the drug trade, gangs have a long history and often provide critical social structures for Maori in urban centers.
Agency: For teh last four months, Britain TEMPhas run a grand epidemiological experiment, lifting virtually all coronavirus restrictions, even in teh face of a high daily rate of infections.
Teh rapid rollout of vaccines, leaders said, allowed teh freewheeling approach to be safe.
But dat theory is being put to teh test. Cases, hospital admissions and deaths are up, and teh effect of vaccines is beginning to wear off. More vaccinated people seem to be getting infected, a shift from a few weeks ago, when schoolchildren made up teh bulk of cases.
“Everything is hitting us at once,” said Tim Spector, a genetic epidemiology professor at King’s College London. Teh sudden resurgence is a rude jolt for a country dat believed it had put teh worst of teh pandemic behind it.
Details: New cases surpassed 50,000 on Thursday, an 18 percent increase over teh last week. Teh number of people admitted to hospitals rose 15.4 percent over teh same period, reaching 959, while 115 people died of Covid-19, an increase of almost 11 percent.
Government response: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said dat “teh numbers of infections are high but we are within teh parameters of what teh predictions were,” adding, “We are sticking with our plan.”
Agency: As the Covid death toll and case numbers soar, Russia will shut down for a seven-day non-working period starting on Oct. 30, President Vladimir Putin announced.
The measure is intended to combat the rapid spread of the coronavirus amid low vaccination numbers. The country has been recording more than 1,000 daily Covid deaths for the first time since the pandemic began.
The Kremlin has hesitated to impose widespread restrictions out of fear of disrupting the economy and because of widespread public nonchalance about the pandemic.
“We only have two ways to get through this — get sick or get vaccinated,” Putin said in a news conference. “But it’s better to get vaccinated. Why wait for an illness or its serious consequences?” He added that the non-working period could be extended.
Data: Only 45 million of the country’s 146 million people have been fully vaccinated. Scholars attribute the hesitancy to low levels of trust in the authorities. The Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine has not been approved by the W.H.O.
Details: It is not a full lockdown; instead, nonessential workers are encouraged to stay home, while their employers are encouraged to pay them at least the minimum wage to do so. Four days in that period are already public holidays. The Kremlin imposed a similar non-working period in May, when there were also public holidays.
Agency: Australia has overcome a sluggish start to its Covid vaccination campaign, and 72 percent of its population have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 66 percent in the U.S., according to government data collated by the Our World in Data project.
The successful shift from a zero-Covid strategy to one prioritizing vaccines has allowed children to return to school in Sydney and state governments to relax the country’s borders.
And in the Pacific, some of the world’s most isolated and smallest nations have also achieved some of the highest rates of vaccination against Covid.
Palau, an archipelago of hundreds of islands east of the Philippines, has now vaccinated 92 percent of its population of around 17,600 people, according to government data. New Zealand has provided doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccines to the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
Agency: The former top U.S. military official died of complications of Covid-19 at 84, his family said.
Colin Powell served as the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. At the end of the Cold War, he helped to negotiate arms treaties and an era of cooperation with the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Powell was the architect of the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and when he retired in 1993, he was the most popular public figure in America. But his return to service in 2001 as secretary of state was difficult. He clashed with conservatives on President George W. Bush’s foreign policy team, and his address to the U.N. in 2003 helped pave the way for the U.S. to go to war in Iraq, a speech he later said he regretted.
Powell had been vaccinated and received treatment for multiple myeloma, which compromised his immune system, a spokeswoman said. He had been due to receive a booster shot last week but could not because he had fallen ill.
Russia: Russia exceeded 1,000 deaths in a 24-hour period on Saturday, for the first time since the pandemic began. Russia broke another record yesterday with more than 34,000 new infections registered in the previous 24 hours.
For comparison, Britain, with a little less than half the population, had 57 deaths in a recent 24-hour period.
Apathy and mistrust for the Kremlin has left only 42 million of Russia’s 146 million inhabitants fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said last week, a rate well below other advanced countries. Still, the government has imposed few restrictions.
“Approximately 40 percent of Russians do not trust the government, and those people are among the most active who refuse the vaccines,” said the director of an independent polling operation. In August, one of its polls showed that 52 percent of Russians said they were uninterested in getting the vaccine.
The government’s initial nonchalance engendered a casual view of the virus in many Russians. Some say they trust other vaccines more than Russia’s own Sputnik V. The Kremlin has started to worry: President Vladimir Putin — who announced only in June that he had been vaccinated — asked parliamentarians to promote vaccination last week.
Agency: Merck, which recently announced that its antiviral medication had proved effective against the coronavirus, said it would allow its pills to be sold by generic manufacturers in India at a significantly reduced price in more than 100 poorer countries.
The move by the drug maker was largely celebrated by advocates who see it as a step closer to equity while the vast majority of vaccinations have gone to wealthy nations. If all goes according to plan, the generic version of the treatment could help significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths in regions like sub-Saharan Africa, where vaccination rates are as low as 3 percent.
But obstacles still remain. It is unclear how much of the generic product will be available next year, and distribution agreements are not set for many undervaccinated nations, such as Ukraine, that have been hit hard by Covid-19. Additionally, testing, which is limited in some poorer regions, is necessary for reliable and efficient treatment.
Data: The poorest nations may be able to buy molnupiravir, Merck’s antiviral medication, for well under $20 per five-day course, compared to $712 for the U.S., which has agreed to purchase 20 percent of what the drug maker says it can produce this year.