Covid-19 global update: The good, the bad and the ugly

Despite a recent drop in cases and deaths the world over, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed on Tuesday that “we’re not out of the woods yet”, even if many people think the battle is nearly over.
54% of the world is yet to be administered even a single dose of the vaccine.(Reuters)
54% of the world is yet to be administered even a single dose of the vaccine.(Reuters)
Updated on Oct 07, 2021 02:27 AM IST
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Earlier this week, the global toll from the coronavirus pandemic crossed 5 million, according to a Reuters tally, with unvaccinated people dying in large numbers as they remain exposed to the more virulent Delta variant. 

Despite a recent drop in cases and deaths the world over, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed on Tuesday that “we’re not out of the woods yet”, even if many people think the battle is nearly over. 

“We’re not out of the woods. We’re very much in the middle of this pandemic,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for WHO’s Covid-19 task force.

Despite a slowdown in recent weeks, Covid-19 infections are still rising in 42 countries and an average of around 7,000 people have lost their lives to the pandemic across the world over in the past week, data shows. 

A look at what has worked in the world’s fight against the disease, and what still remains to be done.

The good: Cases at a 4-month low, but daily deaths lowest in 11 months

Continuing a declining global trend that started around the final week of August, new reported cases of Covid-19 have been steadily dropping. There were 2.98 million new Covid-19 cases reported across the world in the past week, an 8% fall from a week-ago when there were 3.23 million new infections across the globe. 

The seven-day average of new cases, which denotes the global Covid-19 case curve, currently stands at 426,304 – the lowest it has been since July 7, or in nearly four months, according to data compiled by Worldometers.info. This drop clearly marks what appears to be the end of the global Delta (B.1.617, first reported in India) wave that has been ravaging the world since early June.

But it is the drop in deaths that has been far more significant. The seven-day average of daily deaths in the world currently stands at 6,943 – the lowest it has been since November 1, 2020, or in more than 11 months.

The world appears to be getting even better at saving lives, especially when seen in light of the fact that most people currently succumbing to the disease have not been (or have chosen not to be) vaccinated. 

At its peak during the Delta wave, the seven-day average of daily deaths touched 10,262, against the peak of daily cases at 659,615 (both in the last week of August). The drop in deaths (as well as cases) can be attributed to the spread of vaccines – resulting in each subsequent wave getting less fatal.

The bad: More than half the world yet to receive even a single shot of the vaccine

Nearly 6.4 billion doses of various Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in more than 200 countries across the world till Tuesday night, according to a tally maintained by Our World In Data. At the global level, this translates into only 46% of the world’s population having received at least one dose of the vaccine – 33.4% have been fully vaccinated, while 11.6% have been partly vaccinated. This means that 54% of the world is yet to be administered even a single dose of the vaccine.

The global number, however, glosses over massive national variations. Countries such as Singapore (80% population vaccinated), Spain (81%), Chile (81%), Portugal (88%) and UAE (94%) are among the nations with the best overall coverage of their populations. 

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum lie at least 20 nations (most of which are in Africa) that have not even given a single shot to 1% of their populations, data shows.

India lies slightly above the global average with 47.8% of its overall population (not just adult population) having been covered with at least one dose. But with 18.1% of its total population fully vaccinated against Covid-19, it lies much behind the global average of 34.4%.

The ugly: Rich nations are covering their populations far faster

One of the clearest takeaways to have emerged from the global roll-out of the vaccination drive has been that there remains a world of a difference in equitable distribution of coverage. As things stand, this distribution appears to be largely defined by wealth. 

More than 10 months since first the shot of the Covid-19 vaccine was administered across the world, access to vaccines (and their administration) remains out of reach for the poorest nations of the world.

The chart here denotes the relationship between the per capita GDP of nations and their vaccination coverage. The x-axis depicts per capita GDP (in US$); the higher a country is located here, the richer it is. The y-axis is the proportion of the country’s population fully vaccinated – countries on the right have the best coverage, while those on the left fare the worst.

While most of Africa lies clumped together on the bottom left (the poorest and worst covered by vaccines), as we move up the x-axis to the richer nations of the world, they start moving to the right. 

The trend line drawn on the chart shows that the rate at which a nation’s wealth increases the chances of it having better vaccination coverage. 

Of the 20 countries with the lowest coverage of vaccines, 18 are in the lowest quartile of per capita GDP. All 20 of these nations have overall coverage under 1% and 17 of these are from Africa – Haiti, Turkmenistan and Yemen are the only non-African countries in the bottom 20. 

Another 20 countries don’t even show up on this chart as they haven’t even administered a single dose of the vaccine.

This chart is all the more important now as some western countries have already started administering booster doses despite repeated requests by WHO for them to pass on giving booster doses until at least the end of the year. 

The US, Britain, France, Germany and Israel are among the countries that have begun administering boosters or have announced plans to do so. On Monday, the European Medicines Agency gave its endorsement to EU countries offering a third dose to adults.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Jamie Mullick works as a chief content producer at Hindustan Times. He uses data and graphics to tell his stories.

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