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COVID and Global Health

Author John J. Metzler, columnist, UN correspondent and academic (Photo private archive - for education only)

Author John J. Metzler, columnist, UN correspondent and academic (Photo private archive – for education only)

By John J. Metzler - The global pandemic has devastated health standards, the economy, and through stress and the undertow of uncertainty and hardships has affected the sanity of citizens worldwide.  Lockdowns, arbitrary regulations, school closings are taking their toll on the social fabric.

Now as a second wave of the Wuhan Covid virus is sweeping Western Europe, and spiking in places as varied is South Africa, India and Brazil, Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s Regional Director for Europe warns, “This moment represents a tipping-point in the course of the pandemic, where science, politics, technology and values must form a united front, in or to push back this          persistent and elusive virus.”   He added, that “more than 230 million people are living in countries under full national lockdown, and more governments are expected to announce lockdowns.”

 

Europe (was) on a right track

Last year more than 26 million COVID-19 cases were confirmed throughout Europe.  Dr. Kluge added “This is an alarming situation, which means that for a short period of time we need to do more than we have done and to intensify the public health.”

Earlier in the crisis  people assumed and were told, “Europe got it right in treating and isolating” the virus.  Maybe for a while;  but since the Autumn countries ranging from France to Spain, Germany and Italy are in the deadly crosshairs of Corona.  The United Kingdom faces a         particularity lethal “second strain” of the virus which has prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to practically shut the country down as the outbreaks surge from London.  Given the      lockdown people in England, Scotland and Wales must stay home and only can go out for limited reasons such as food shopping.

Britain’s National Health Service is strained to the breaking point with new hospital admissions. In France lockdowns have closed cafes and restaurants, and restricted travel.  The Macron     government has mandated a curfew in major cities to control the outbreaks; the 6 PM to 5 AM curfew has strained nerves and shattered small businesses.

France inglorious record

France has seen numbers surge off the charts with expanding daily infection rates despite the Vacina Covid 2020lockdown.  New cases rose by 15,944 daily to stand at around 2.78 million since last year. Europe’s grim numbers are worth noting; the United Kingdom has seen 81,000 deaths, Italy 78,000, France 67,000 and Germany 40,000.

Significantly the USA still faces a staggering fatality rate from Covid; over 372,000 Americans have died in less than a year.

Will vaccine solve all the problems

A Vaccine to the rescue?  We have finally have the tool if not silver bullet to stop the Covid spread. America’s much maligned Operation Warp Speed delivered and has fast tracked and helped develop a safe vaccine for the USA.  But many state governments and politicians are    acting like the proverbial Keystone Cops in directing and misdirecting and repurposing vaccine distribution.  New York state has stumbled with changing regulations and priorities.

But look at the data.  Vaccine distribution in Israel, the United Kingdom and the USA,  lead the world in the number of vaccine doses administered; as a percent of the population vaccinated, the American rate stands at about three times higher than most other European countries such as Italy and Germany.

Vaccine shots, or jabs as the Brits say, are not moving well or quickly in France given that bottlenecks plague the massive national health network as well as the population’s lingering   hesitation to take the vaccine.

Iran and others choosing other path (and vaccine)

Further afield, Iran Ayatollahs say no to the Anglo/American vaccines so they are probably   looking to China for the jab.  Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei makes unsubstantiated claims that the American and British vaccines were “untrustworthy.”   He decreed, “importing vaccines made in the US or the UK is prohibited.”  So far 56,000 Iranians have died during the pandemic.  Let’s face it, Iran’s clerical elite will probably get a U.S. vaccine!

Islamic Iran has banned imports of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford   vaccines.

Coronavirus-Vaccine-Updates-AI-Predicts-that-COVID-19-Vaccine-wont-be-available-till-2021 (Photo for education only)

Coronavirus-Vaccine-Updates-AI-Predicts-that-COVID-19-Vaccine-wont-be-available-till-2021 (Photo for education only)

In a strange twist,  Argentina who should know better, has decided to use the Russian Sputnik vaccine!  Argentina became the first country in Latin America to use the Russian shots.  But in a bid to get an additional 15 million vaccines, Argentina’s socialist Fernandez government is     currently in talks with China to procure the Sinovac vaccine.  China’s President Xi Jinping said that his country is “ready to work” with Argentina to boost cooperation.

But the depth of the global crisis goes beyond borders.  UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned,  “We are at a 1945 moment, but this is not 1945.  Today’s war is against a microscopic virus.  Tomorrow’s could be against terrorists in cyberspace. “

 

 

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John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.

 

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