More than three billion Covid-19 vaccines have been distributed globally as countries race to contain the virulent Delta variant that is fueling outbreaks all over the world.
Many nations have been caught off guard by the highly infectious coronavirus strain, with Russia reporting its highest daily death toll yet, Australia shutting down city after city, and fears growing over major sporting events such as Euro 2020 and the Olympic Games.
At least 3.9 million people have died as a result of Covid-19, and while some wealthy countries are succeeding in reducing infections through aggressive vaccination campaigns, others where vaccines are not as widely available are struggling.
According to the tally, high-income countries as defined by the World Bank received an average of 79 doses per 100 inhabitants, with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel leading the way.
In low-income countries, the figure is as low as one shot per 100 people. Foreign ministers from the Group of 20 major economies emphasized the need for greater global cooperation in the face of the pandemic on Tuesday.
“Multilateral cooperation will be critical to our collective ability to end this global health crisis,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the ministers in Matera, an ancient Italian city. Western leaders have pledged to donate one billion doses to poorer countries, but have been widely chastised for acting too slowly. Vaccine hesitancy has also contributed to the slow uptake.
To combat skepticism, officials in Russia introduced mandatory vaccinations for some groups of citizens on Tuesday, the country’s highest daily death toll since the pandemic’s outbreak.
The country reported 652 coronavirus fatalities in the last 24 hours, with 119 deaths in Saint Petersburg, which is set to host a Euro 2020 quarter final on Friday. Meanwhile, public outrage in Australia is growing over the slow pace of vaccinations in a country that has been largely successful in eliminating local transmission and leading a nearly normal life.
The Delta variant has put Sydney, Perth, Darwin, and Brisbane on lockdown, forcing more than 10 million Australians to stay at home. However, it is estimated that less than 5% of adults have received both vaccine doses.
Nicola Hungerford, 57, of Brisbane, said she expected lockdowns to continue “until the government gets their bloody act together” on the vaccine rollout. The Delta variant’s transmission speed has fueled concerns about current or upcoming sporting events.
Germany urged the British government on Tuesday to limit the number of fans allowed into Wembley Stadium for the final Euro 2020 matches.
“I think it’s irresponsible for tens of thousands to gather in close proximity,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Germany’s Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
According to UEFA and British authorities, 45,000 fans will be allowed to attend a game between England and Germany on Tuesday afternoon, which is equal to 50% of capacity. Attendance at the semi-finals and final at Wembley will be increased to 75%, or more than 60,000 fans, in what will be the largest crowds at a sporting event in Britain since the pandemic began.
The Delta variant was discovered in India, which was hit by a vicious wave of coronavirus that overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums in April and May.
Bodies buried hastily along the banks of the Ganges river by families unable to afford funeral pyres have begun to re-emerge as flooding dislodges them, a reminder of the virus’s unspeakable human tragedies.