Global pandemic toll rises even as rich world begins to move forward

Data: Our world in data; Graphic: Axios Visuals

It seems we have come to a turning point in the pandemic: the pockets of the rich world are starting to overtake COVID-19, while some less fortunate countries face greater danger than ever before.

Consider this: The World Health Organization said today that more cases have been recorded globally in the past two weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic, largely due to an unprecedented outbreak in India and the ongoing attack in Brazil .

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  • India currently records around 3,500 deaths per day, and the actual rate could be two to five times higher, according to University of Michigan epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been accused of failing to prepare for a second wave while prioritizing controversial regional elections – which the ruling party lost – even as the wave collapsed. He resists now calls for new national restrictions, although several states have already locked down.

  • Countries around the world continue to promise oxygen and other supplies. In the meantime, reports continue to emerge that hospitals in New Delhi and elsewhere are running out.

In Europe, a fourth wave has started to subside. Governments hope it will be the last to face and they are preparing to live after the pandemic.

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government plans to lift restrictions in the coming days for people who have been vaccinated.

  • This could temporarily lead to a two-tier society in Germany, with predominantly elderly people who have been vaccinated no longer subject to curfews and other measures.

The state of play: 28% of Germans have now received at least one dose, up from 12% a month ago, as the EU continues to shake off its slow start in vaccine rollout.

  • In the United States, where 45% of the population has been vaccinated, demand is now more of a problem than supply.

  • Cases and deaths continue to drop, giving hope that the United States could now follow a similar trajectory to Israel, where only 13 new cases were recorded on Saturday at a test positivity rate of 0.1%.

  • In India, meanwhile, 9% of the population has received a dose. There will be a shortage of supply at least until July, said CEO of Serum Institute of India Adar Poonawalla told the FT.

  • Australia has now made it a criminal offense for its citizens to return from India. A number of other countries have banned all travel from India but exempted their own citizens.

Meanwhile, the European Commission today offers a plan to ease travel restrictions for tourists who have been fully vaccinated.

  • The recommendation could be adopted by the 27 member states of the European Union as early as May 5, paving the way for the return of summer travel to one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Zach Basu of Axios writes.

The bottom line: The world is opening up to those who have access to vaccines. But that doesn’t mean the pandemic is almost over.

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