Wednesday, June 16

Two pandemics: As we calm down, the virus ravages the world’s poor | Coronavirus

World leaders were warned that unless they act with extreme urgency, the Covid-19 pandemic will overwhelm health services in many nations in South America, Asia and Africa in the coming weeks.

Only billions of pounds of aid and massive exports of vaccines can stop a humanitarian catastrophe that is now rapidly unfolding across the planet, scientists and global health experts said.

They fear that the dire scenes now unfolding in India, where people die in hospital corridors, on highways and in their homes, while parking lots are turned into cremation grounds, could be repeated in many other economically fragile nations. . Their destinations are now in stark contrast to those of well-vaccinated countries like the UK and the US, where blockades are being lifted.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under fire for his recent decision to cut foreign aid during the pandemic. This has only worsened the calamity that is hitting low- and middle-income countries, it is claimed.

India’s rising death rate is driving a record shift in the global burden of deaths from Covid-19 to poor and lower-middle-income countries, according to Observer analysis, in what may be the beginning of a longer-term shift toward a higher concentration of virus deaths in the global south as wealthier nations begin vaccinating their way out of the crisis.

Nearly one in three (30.7%) deaths from Covid-19 worldwide now occur in poor and lower-middle-income countries; a month ago, they accounted for just 9.3% of global deaths.

But India is not the only one driving the change, with higher death rates from Covid-19 in countries such as Kenya (where mortality has increased by 674% since the end of January), Djibouti (550%) and Bangladesh (489%) also contributing to the highest proportion of Covid-19 mortality recorded in the global south since the appearance of the new coronavirus in December 2019.

As host of next month’s G7 meeting, Johnson is now under intense pressure to ensure that rescue packages, vaccines and drugs are shipped from wealthy nations to stem rising rates of Covid deaths in countries. Developing.

On Saturday, Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, urged world leaders to ensure that vaccine supplies are shipped to vulnerable countries urgently.

“If we fail to reduce the transmission of the virus globally at this critical time, our world will become even more unequal, fragmented and much more dangerous, just at the time when we need to come together to address the shared challenges of the 21st century.”

This point was supported by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. “We are in danger of having a completely divided world where half are vaccinated and half are not vaccinated,” he told the Observer. “This is life or death. If we do not take this action and do not do it urgently, the disease will spread. It will mutate. And it will return to the rich countries, as well as to the poor countries ”.

Hand holding vial of vaccine.
Rich countries are urged to make vaccines and equipment available to poorer nations. Photograph: Christophe Archambault / AP

These warnings came as it was revealed that South America, home to 5.5% of the world’s population, has suffered 32% of all reported Covid deaths. “What is happening is a catastrophe,” said the Minister of Health of Argentina, Carla Vizzotti.

Africa’s health experts, meanwhile, warned that the crisis in India would soon be replicated across its continent. “We don’t have enough health workers, we don’t have enough oxygen,” warned John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is among the band of lower-middle-income countries where deaths have increased the most in recent months, growing by 400%, according to Observer analysis of seven-day averages.

The numbers in some of these countries are likely worse than reported due to less developed health surveillance systems, said Krutika Kuppalli, assistant professor of infectious diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“Some of these resource-limited countries don’t have the capacity to test and report as well, so it has been said that countries in the global south have not been as affected, but there has always been some skepticism about their surveillance and reported rates. “, He said.

In India, some experts have accused the authorities of a significant lack of information. Murad Banaji, a mathematician who has extensively modeled India’s Covid-19 pandemic, said the death toll in India was likely at least three times higher than official figures.

For example, Banaji has found that in Mumbai, for every Covid-19 death that was recorded, there was one excess death not designated as caused by Covid. “Not all of those excessive deaths may have been from Covid-19,” explained Banaji. “But from what we can gather from international data and studies, they most likely were.”

The scope of the growing global crisis was emphasized by David Nabarro, professor of global health at Imperial College London and envoy of the World Health Organization on Covid-19. He told the Observer that people in many countries were facing serious problems caused by Covid-19, including Nepal and Bangladesh, as well as India, East Asian countries including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, as well as nations in other regions, including Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

“It is really unsatisfactory that a billion doses of vaccines have been administered and that the vast majority of them reach the arms of people in rich settings. This bias in the distribution will directly affect the loss of life in places where the vaccine is not available. “

Other world health experts attacked the UK government for making significant cuts in its foreign aid at a time when it had never been so urgently needed. “This means that we are reversing all the progress that has been made over so many years on many diseases of poverty, such as malaria,” said Professor Trudie Lang of the University of Oxford.

“The reduction in British foreign aid is tough. Critically important scientific programs have been canceled and it will be very difficult to recover and rebuild this vital research capacity. “

Baroness Liz Sugg, who resigned as minister after the aid cut was announced, agreed: “With the virus escalating in some of the poorest parts of the world, it is the worst possible time for the UK to reduce our support to the vulnerable maximum. It is clear that the cuts will make it more difficult for countries to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak, as we are seeing the closure of health centers and the cancellation of drinking water programs.

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