While India continues to reel under Covid-19, a number of places that were once seen as the gold standard for pandemic responses are now also seeing surges in cases, as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world unabated.
Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state on Monday posted a new daily record of 532 new Covid cases, and Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews warned that a lockdown in the city of Melbourne will continue if infected people continue to go to work instead of staying home. Melbourne is almost half way through a six-week lockdown aimed at curbing community spread of the coronavirus. Mask wearing in Australia’s second-largest city became compulsory last week.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong is locking down yet again amid its third wave. Hong Kong banned gatherings of more than two people, closed down restaurant dining and introduced mandatory face masks in public places, including outdoors.
And Japan, which has not imposed lockdowns, just recorded its highest daily infection rate yet, just before the weekend. Also, Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, from Danang after three residents tested positive at the weekend. Until Saturday, the country had reported no community infections since April.
In Europe, parts of Spain, which brought a virulent outbreak to heel this spring with strict measures, are closing down again as infections soar. In fact, a surge in infections in Spain prompted Britain to order all travellers from there to quarantine for two weeks, wrecking the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people.
And the Czech Republic, which held a ‘farewell party’ to the pandemic just weeks ago, is experiencing a new jump in cases linked to a Prague nightclub. The Czech government, on Monday, announced an overhaul of its much-criticised ‘smart quarantine’ system of tracking and isolating contacts of people with Covid as it battles the spike in new infections.
Finally, China had managed to squelch local transmission through firm lockdowns after the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year. But a new surge has been driven by infections in the far western region of Xinjiang. In the northeast, Liaoning province reported a fifth straight day of new infections and Jilin province reported two new cases, its first since late May.
So even with the most well-intentioned, widespread restrictions, it seems the virus is not going away anytime soon. And until there is a vaccine, governments may be forced to rely on the strategy of “suppress and lift” — coined by Hong Kong authorities — whereby rules are relaxed and then swiftly reinforced at the first sign of new spikes.
The Covid map of India has transformed this month, with the virus having reached almost all the districts and cases growing fast. While the pressure seems to be easing in early hotspots like Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, roughly half the country’s districts now have more than 500 cases each. Of them, about 200 have more than 1,000 cases each, and there has been at least one Covid death in almost 80% of the districts. Many of these emerging hotspots have scanty health infrastructure and managing an explosion of cases could prove beyond their capabilities. Already, cases in 11 districts are growing at double-digit rates.