Up, down, sideways: Around the world, the pandemic defies easy description.


By Richard Pérez-Peña

On a global scale, the latest wave of the pandemic appears to be cresting at a lower level than those of the winter and spring, but the pattern differs markedly from place to place, as each nation endures its own particular drama.

The patchwork reflects the radically different paths the coronavirus takes from nation to nation, depending not only on vaccines, but on geographic isolation, the spread of the highly infectious Delta and other variants, social and economic restrictions, public compliance and an element of luck.

Conditions have improved substantially in places like India and South America that a few months ago were among the hardest-hit in the world, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

In May, India reached about 400,000 new infections and 4,000 Covid-19 deaths officially reported per day, though experts said the true toll was much higher. On Monday, the daily tally of new cases in India dipped below 30,000 for the first time in more than four months, and the country is now reporting fewer than 1,000 deaths a day.

The most troubled countries now are a scattered assortment, not concentrated in any one region. Botswana, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Spain have among the highest infection rates in the world, with numbers still climbing. Indonesia, which was recording more cases than any other country this month, remains badly affected, but the pace there has eased somewhat.

In many countries, rates of new cases are relatively low but have risen sharply in recent days. They include countries with some of the highest inoculation rates, like Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel and the United States, where restrictions have relaxed and the Delta variant has surged.

Vaccination rates range from more than 80 percent of adults in some countries to less than 1 percent in others, including in many of the world’s poorest nations, according to data from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

Britain has become an outlier: One of the most-vaccinated parts of the world, it has a high (though declining) infection rate.

Globally, more than 500,000 new cases are being recorded daily, compared with more than 800,000 three months ago. But comparisons like that are fraught, because official reporting practices vary widely from region to region. The picture is especially difficult to gauge across most of Africa, where both testing and vaccines remain scarce.

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