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Family members of a Covid-19 victim praying at a hospital mortuary before their relative’s burial in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in late May.Credit…Lim Huey Teng/Reuters
The authorities in Malaysia have barred people from venturing more than about six miles from home. Covid-19 patients are spilling into the hallways of overcrowded hospitals in Argentina. In Nepal, 40 percent of coronavirus tests are positive, suggesting that the virus is racing through the population.
All three nations are experiencing their worst coronavirus outbreaks since the start of the pandemic, joining countries across Asia and South America where infections have surged to record levels — a stark counterpoint to the optimism felt in the United States as summer dawns.
Deep into the second year of the pandemic, the emergence of coronavirus variants and the global gaps in access to vaccines have plunged parts of the world back into the anxious stages of Covid-19. Argentina, Malaysia South Africa and others have reimposed lockdowns. Thailand and Taiwan, which kept the virus in check for much of 2020, have closed schools and nightspots in the face of new waves.
Scores are dying daily in Paraguay and Uruguay, which now have the highest reported fatality rates per person in the world, according to a New York Times database. India’s catastrophic second wave has killed more than 3,000 people every day for the past month, according to official statistics, and experts believe the true toll is far greater.
The reasons for the surges vary across countries, but together they reflect “the challenge of maintaining vigilance against a highly transmissible, airborne virus for long periods of time, balanced against economic and social considerations,” said Claire Standley, an assistant research professor at the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.
Globally, new infections have declined from their peak of more than 800,000 recorded cases a day in late April. Still, half a million people are reported infected with the virus daily. And countries that have kept cases low for more than a year, such as Australia and Singapore, are seeing small pockets of infections that have prompted partial lockdowns and delayed plans to reopen borders.
The only way to stamp out such surges, experts say, is to rapidly increase vaccinations, which have raced ahead in the United States and Europe while the rest of the world falls behind. In North America, 60 vaccine doses have been administered for every 100 people, compared with 27 in South America and 21 in Asia, according to New York Times data. In Africa, the rate is two doses per 100 people.
“Global vaccine access has been woefully inequitable, with a handful of high-income countries dominating procurement agreements and receipt of initial batches,” Dr. Standley said.
The gap leaves many countries vulnerable.
In South America, countries that imposed lockdown measures found that they did not work as well as in the United States and Europe at stopping the spread of the virus because many low-income laborers needed to continue to work, said Matthew Richmond, a sociologist at the London School of Economics. As new outbreaks emerge, the region’s lack of investment in medical care has put health systems at risk of collapse and delayed the rollout of vaccines, he said.
“The combined effect of social inequality and weak state capacity have meant these countries have not been able to reduce transmission, treat those with severe symptoms or vaccinate populations at the same scale or speed” as in the United States and Europe, Dr. Richmond said.
Even if rich countries shut off travel with countries where the virus remains endemic, border closings could mean little as long as the virus circulates widely. And new variants could emerge that are more resistant to vaccines.
“The ongoing devastation being wreaked by Covid-19 in the Global South should be reason enough for the rich countries to want to enable a quick and cheap global vaccine rollout,” Dr. Richmond said. “If it’s not, enlightened self-interest should lead them to the same conclusion.”
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Sterilizing a poultry market in Wuhan, China, in 2013. The Chinese government on Tuesday announced the world’s first human case of the H10N3 strain of bird flu.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A 41-year-old man in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province is the first known human to be infected with a strain of bird flu known as H10N3, China’s National Health Commission said on Tuesday — a development that experts said merited close monitoring because of an underlying continued risk of pandemic flus.
Avian viruses do not typically spread among humans, but they can pose a danger to humans if they mix with a human virus, said Raina MacIntyre, the head of the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
“If someone has human flu and is infected with bird flu, the two viruses can swap genetic material,” she said. “That’s why you see the concern for pandemic flu arising in countries where humans and livestock have very close contact.”
The Health Commission’s announcement said that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission in the Jiangsu case. Contact tracing and surveillance have not uncovered any other infections, officials said.
Influenza viruses differ from coronaviruses, and the World Health Organization is working with the Chinese government to monitor the case, according to a statement from the W.H.O. division in Beijing.
The man began feeling feverish at the end of April and was hospitalized on April 28, the Chinese government statement said. On May 28, genome sequencing by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention determined that he had been infected with H10N3.
The government announcement did not say how the man had been infected, and the W.H.O. said the source of infection was still unknown. The man’s condition has stabilized, and he is ready to be discharged, the government said.
Professor MacIntyre said that people who are usually infected by avian viruses are those who are in prolonged close contact with the birds, such as poultry handlers.
The W.H.O. said that H10N3 had “been detected periodically in birds in live bird markets as early as 2002,” but the virus is unlikely to kill birds or lead to many signs of illness.
“As long as avian influenza viruses circulate in poultry,” the organization said, “sporadic infection of avian influenza in humans is not surprising, which is a vivid reminder that the threat of an influenza pandemic is persistent.”
Robert Williams, who manages maintenance work for schools in the Bronx, at Lehman high school on a recent morning. Just days after recovering from a serious bout of Covid-19 in March 2020, he was back in school buildings.Credit…Elianel Clinton for The New York Times
When New York City’s school system shuttered last spring, the one million students who had flooded its classrooms were sent home. Tens of thousands of teachers had just a few days to prepare for online classes. But there was a vast force of essential workers who never left the city’s 1,800 school buildings.
“This is my job — we had to be here,” said Theresa DiCristi, a custodial engineer in downtown Manhattan. She and her team cleaned the school’s hallways and cafeteria until they were sparkling, and distributed masks and hand sanitizer to families who came to pick up hot lunches.
In the Bronx, Robert Williams oversaw a team of carpenters who spent weeks in vacant school gymnasiums, building coffins for the hundreds of New Yorkers dying of the virus. By the summer, Mr. Williams, who manages maintenance work for all Bronx schools, was working every night and through the weekends to make sure school buildings were safe to welcome children back in the fall.
At the Star Academy in Brooklyn, even when some students spiked fevers over 100 degrees in his office or when weekly testing in schools revealed the occasional positive case, Cam Hawkins, a school nurse, knew he had to project calm. “First of all, your child is fine,” he’d say when he called parents.
Stephen Ali, a school lunch helper in the Bronx, knows how hard it is to teach a student who hasn’t had enough to eat, so he would give them more. During the pandemic, he and the school’s cook prepared meals for anyone in the community who needed them.
Fastening screws and components on a bicycle at the RTE bicycle assembly factory in Serzedo, Portugal, last week.Credit…Rodrigo Cardoso for The New York Times
Demand for bikes has soared during the pandemic. More people are pedaling to stay fit after long lockdowns or to avoid crowded trains and buses. More bike lanes have been added to cities like Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon and Paris.
And it has been a boon to northern Portugal, home to a heavy concentration of manufacturers with ties to bicycles. About 60 companies in the region assemble bikes or make their parts and accessories.
The country of 10 million people — a little more than 2 percent of the European Union’s population — produces nearly a quarter of the bloc’s bicycles. (The United States is a secondary market for Portuguese bikes and components, accounting for about $1.2 million in exports in 2019.)
The industry has turned into one of the nation’s fastest-growing employers.
As demand has escalated, the bicycle makers have run into the same supply-chain issues that have hurt other industries, holding up production because parts from Asia are missing. That has spurred additional investment in the region, including what is believed to be Europe’s first factory to make carbon-fiber bike frames.
“One lesson from the pandemic is that you need to be nearer to your production,” said Emre Ozgunes, the general manager of Carbon Team, the factory’s owner. “Because if everything shuts down, you can probably still drive to Portugal to pick up frames, but not to China.”
Source by www.nytimes.com