So… is the pandemic over? It seems like it is — mask mandates have lifted, social distance eased, and plenty of people are fully vaccinated. However, the evidence does not support this view. Let’s look at 5 reasons the pandemic is not over.
1. Cases are rising around the world
The most obvious reason: COVID-19 cases are rising, notably in Europe and China. The new European wave comes as restrictions such as wearing face masks indoors are lifting. Meanwhile, China recently locked down Shanghai – a city of 26 million people – to address a rise in cases. We all know where this can lead — increased hospitalizations, people missing work, children missing school, and supply chain issues.
2. Vaccine equity is a long way off
Only if everyone has equal access to vaccines, regardless of where they live, can we escape an endless cycle of variants, boosters, and restrictions. Vaccinating 70% of the global population by September 2022 is crucial to ending the pandemic. As our new video shows, we‘re nowhere near this target.
There‘s clear inequity in vaccine delivery and actual shots in arms. But there‘s also the fact that low-income countries don‘t fully have the means to produce vaccines and treatments themselves. As AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat recently stated, “I urge the G7 to join the United States of America in the support of the Initiative by South Africa and India at the WTO to waive intellectual property rights to COVID vaccines… Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and suicidal in a global pandemic.”
“Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and suicidal in a global pandemic.” – Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission chairperson
3. New variants are inevitable — and unpredictable
We don‘t know what new variants will emerge or how deadly they might be. The Omicron variant is causing milder symptoms in some people, but we can‘t predict what future variants may look like. Some people called Omicron “mild,” but it had serious consequences. In the US, for example, one-third of child deaths from COVID-19 have occurred during the latest Omicron surge of the pandemic.
We can only stop the next variant and end the pandemic if we end vaccine apartheid and take the steps needed to beat the virus everywhere.
4. Economic recovery is way off
The pandemic has caused the first rise in extreme poverty in two decades. 2020 saw almost 100 million more people pushed into extreme poverty. Rich countries have spent over $14 trillion to protect their economies from the effects of the pandemic. But not all countries had that luxury. We need to use every economic tool we have to ensure a fair recovery from this pandemic. Here’s more on what that looks like.
5. Routine healthcare and school are still not back to normal
In short, things are not back to “normal.” Of course, our world has changed and we might not completely go back to how things were before the pandemic. But fundamental services that we all rely on, from healthcare to education, are still experiencing serious issues. Many treatments for preventable diseases such as HIV and TB have been delayed, wild polio has reemerged in Malawi, and schools around the world are still closed or only partially open.