Two nations stagger under the onslaught of Covid

Flames crackle over the wails and prayers of grieving families as they mourn loved ones lost to Covid-19, whose bodies are laid on funeral pyres that burn through the night in India’s capital, New Delhi.

The families’ grief reflects the unfolding tragedy in India — now at the epicenter of the global pandemic — Jessie Yeung, Clarissa Ward and Rishabh Pratap report. India is seeing more cases per day than any other country has witnessed — pushing the global number of infections over 150 million.

Anger is growing against India’s leaders, who are accused of failing to mitigate a second wave of the disease. A spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that while the responsibility belongs “first and foremost” to the government, the situation could not have been foreseen. India’s woes are compounded by a vaccine shortage, caused by a lack of raw materials and overwhelming demand.

Similar problems are being seen in Latin America where new variants are helping drive a surge in cases across the region, says the regional health body. Slow vaccination rollouts have caused more setbacks; and health systems are struggling to cope with the influx of patients, many of them young. The vaccination campaign in Brazil — which has long been among the worst-hit nations in the Americas — is running at a snail’s pace as the country surpassed 400,000 Covid-19 deaths on Thursday.

This lies in stark contrast to the robust vaccination programs in the United States and the United Kingdom. Despite mounting calls for rich nations to equitably distribute surplus vaccines, Britain’s health minister ruled out sending extra doses to India. “India can produce its own vaccine, based on British technology, that is… the biggest contribution that we can make which effectively comes from British science,” Matt Hancock said.    

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q. If I am young and healthy, then why should I take the vaccine?

A: It’s critical for young, healthy adults to get vaccinated. Many of those who refused have already paid a price. Here’s why: 

  1. A highly contagious strain is hitting young adults hard. The B.1.1.7 variant is now the most dominant strain spreading in the United States. And unlike the original strain, this one is heavily affecting young people. 
  2. Young adults can get long-term Covid-19 complications. Plenty of young, healthy people have turned into coronavirus “long-haulers.” 
  3. Young adults can be easy transmitters of coronavirus. Several states recently reported spikes in young people with Covid-19. 
  4. Young adults can be victims of their strong immune systems. Doctors have noticed some young, previously healthy patients suffer from Covid-19 cytokine storms. That’s basically when someone’s immune system overreacts — potentially causing severe inflammation or other serious symptoms.   

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

Weekly average of Covid-19 deaths in US hits lowest point in six months

The seven-day average of new Covid-19 deaths in the United States hit its lowest point since October 2020, a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data found Thursday. As of Wednesday, 684 deaths were reported, which is about an 80% drop since January. The fall is at least partly due to vaccinations, experts said. 

Yet, experts warn that to defeat the pandemic, more Americans need to get vaccinated, notably young people, some of whom still are hesitant or may think they don’t have as much to fear from the virus.

Double crises of coup and Covid could push half of Myanmar’s population into poverty, UN warns 

Almost half of Myanmar’s population could be forced into poverty by the end of the year as the country teeters on the brink of economic collapse caused by the double shock of a bloody military coup and the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a United Nations report, Helen Regan reports. 

Rising food costs, significant losses of income and wages, the crumbling of basic services such as banking and health care, and an inadequate social safety net are likely to push millions of already vulnerable people below the poverty line — with women and children among those hardest hit.

US regulators won’t release AstraZeneca vaccine until they are sure it is safe and effective 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not release AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for export to other countries until it’s convinced the doses have been manufactured to US quality standards and will be safe and effective, a government official told CNN Thursday. 

This comes after the White House said Monday it would ship doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries after a safety review by the FDA, Maggie Fox reports. AstraZeneca has yet to apply for regulatory approval in the US, but the company has been making tens of millions of doses there in the expectation that it will apply and eventually receive the green light.

ON OUR RADAR

  • Thelma Sutcliffe just became the oldest living person in the US. At 115 years old, all she wants is to be able to eat meals with her friend again, but cannot do so due to Covid-19 restrictions at her assisted living facility. 
  • Joe Rogan, Spotify’s top podcast host, doubled down on the controversy surrounding his remarks that healthy young people should not get the Covid vaccine. 
  • When coronavirus upended the world last spring, organ donation and transplant programs faced many uncertainties. It complicated the plight of three siblings, whose race to find organ donors came at an inopportune time. 
  • Opinion: Covid 19’s lessons, especially the extraordinary pace of the development of vaccines, are key to crushing the world’s most brutal infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“Just like the pandemic in this country has moved into a different phase, we’re transitioning too…” — Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent

For 14 months and almost 300 episodes, Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction has provided listeners with a way to make sense of the pandemic. We’re grateful you trusted us as a source of knowledge and comfort but now we’re ready for a new phase of the podcast. Stay tuned to your feed on Monday morning when you’ll hear what we have coming next.

In today’s podcast, Gupta says goodbye to the podcast, and introduces us to a new series for the next chapter in this pandemic. Listen now.