Is the world winning the pandemic fight?

It is little more than six months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the arrival of a new virus a global emergency.

Is the world winning the pandemic fight?

On that day, at the end of January, there had been almost 10,000 reported cases of coronavirus and more than 200 people had died. None of those deaths were outside of China.

Since then the world, and our lives, have changed profoundly. So how are we faring in this battle between the human race and the coronavirus?

If we take the planet as a whole, the picture is looking rough.

While this is a single pandemic, it is not one single story. The impact of Covid-19 is different around the world and it is easy to blind yourself to the reality beyond your own country.

But one fact unites everyone, whether they make their home in the Amazon rainforest, the skyscrapers of Singapore or the late-summer streets of the UK: this is a virus that thrives on close human contact. The more we come together, the easier it will spread. That is as true today as when the virus first emerged in China.

This central tenet explains the situation wherever you are in the world and dictates what the future will look like.

It is driving the high volume of cases in Latin America – the current epicentre of the pandemic – and the surge in India. It explains why Hong Kong is keeping people in quarantine facilities or the South Korean authorities are monitoring people’s bank accounts and phones. It illustrates why Europe and Australia are struggling to balance lifting lockdowns and containing the disease. And why we are trying to find a “new normal” rather than the old one.

“This is a virus circulating all over the planet. It affects every single one of us. It goes from human to human, and highlights that we are all connected,” said Dr Elisabetta Groppelli, from St George’s, University of London. “It’s not just about travel, it’s speaking and spending time together – that’s what humans do.”

Even the simple act of singing together spreads the virus.

It has also proven to be an exceptionally tricky virus to track, causing mild or no symptoms for many, but deadly enough to others to overwhelm hospitals.

“It’s the perfect pandemic virus of our time. We are now living in the time of coronavirus,” said Dr Harris.

Where there has been success, it is through breaking the ability of the virus to spread from one person to the next. New Zealand gets the most attention. They acted early, while there were still few cases in the country: locked down, sealed their borders and now have barely any cases. Life is largely back to normal.

Getting the basics right has helped in poorer countries too. Mongolia has the longest shared border with China, where the pandemic began. The country could have been badly impacted. However, not a single case requiring intensive care occurred until July. To date they have only had 293 diagnoses and no deaths.

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