Covid-19: What you need to know today
It’s October 2021.
Life is almost back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic in the global north.
Following the example of the UK, the US and many other countries, have even given those over the age of 50 years a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
Economies are growing; it isn’t quite like the roaring twenties that followed the Spanish Flu (and preceded the Great Depression), but things are definitely looking up.
There are still stray, minor outbreaks caused on account of the anti-vaxxers (who have no protection against the disease other than what they get on account of herd immunity, which has been achieved thanks to the widespread vaccination) and the rare mutant strain, but because most vaccines offer protection from serious illness, none of these is serious enough to warrant the closure of anything.
School is on. As is college. Offices are open (although many companies continue to offer people the flexibility of working from home, or just about anywhere). Shops and restaurants are open. Large-scale sporting and cultural events have restarted. And countries have full-time vaccine czars running huge departments that have figured out schedules for revaccinations and booster shots. Vaccines, these countries have discovered, are the only way to get the better of the pandemic.
In short, life is good.
But that’s in the global north.
It’s October 2021.
Things are still bad in the global south. There are not enough vaccines to go around. Some countries have vaccinated around 20-25% of their population and they are the outliers. Many others have vaccinated far fewer. Even those that have vaccinated a fourth of their population are struggling. The only way they have been able to keep infections under check is by continuing with harsh non-pharmaceutical interventions. Everyone continues to wear masks and practice social distancing. School is still online (or hybrid). As is college. That means the underprivileged who are at the wrong end of the digital divide slide even further down. Most offices remain closed — indoor spaces are lethal — and people continue to work from home. Shops and restaurants follow stringent rules.
Large outbreaks are common. As are attacks by variants of the Sars-CoV-2 virus that result in flare-ups of infections. Herd immunity (the good kind, achieved through vaccination) is some distance away. Every time there is an outbreak, there is a lockdown. Some last weeks, others months. Everyone is tired of stopping and starting, then stopping and starting again. Economies are in tatters.
Travel outside the countries, especially to the global north, is difficult. Those that want to travel need to prove that they have been vaccinated; everyone is tested on landing; and some countries insist on a quarantine on top of everything else.
And because even the first round of vaccination isn’t complete, these countries are caught between universal coverage (for at least everyone who wants a shot), and revaccination, and booster-shot drives.
In short, life is a mess.
October is four months away. India, a country that is in the global south, still has a shot at living the scenario described above for the global north. But for that, it will need to resurrect its faltering vaccine drive (which means, most importantly, accepting that it is faltering). It’s the only way to crush the second wave of the pandemic — and prevent (or lessen the impact of) a third that the government told us on Wednesday was coming.
It’s still not too late to do what it takes to make the first scenario India’s reality by October 2021.