Week of: April 5, 2021
Many countries are experiencing new waves of COVID-19 infections. While pandemic fatigue and slow vaccination have caused resurgences in Brazil, India, and Iran, Chile is seeing increased deaths despite having one of the highest vaccination rates. Case studies reveal that the relaxation of prevention measures such as travel restrictions, lockdowns, and social distancing can increase the spread of COVID-19. Continued transmission gives rise to opportunities for the virus to continue mutating into potentially deadlier variants that could impact the vaccine’s effectiveness. If these countries do not reinstate stricter countermeasures, such as lockdowns, deadlier variants will likely continue to spread, hospitals will become overwhelmed, and more fatalities will occur.
Inability to decrease COVID-19 transmission through precautionary measures and vaccinations could potentially lead to new and deadlier variants. Pandemic fatigue in Brazil, India, and Iran has caused individuals to stop participating in preventative activities such as social distancing, and wearing masks, causing COVID-19 to spread. Throughout the pandemic, the virus has mutated, increasing transmissibility and virulence. The spread of the UK variant is causing concerns in Iran, and a new variant with 18 mutations has been discovered in Brazil, which will likely contribute to the rise in cases and deaths. If countries continue to loosen restrictions, even as populations are vaccinated, the virus will likely continue to transmit. The longer the disease continues to spread, the more opportunities it has to mutate. This is especially dangerous during the period between vaccination and reaching herd immunity, as the virus could develop resistance to the vaccine. Additionally, it could mutate in a way that requires different antibodies than the ones resulting from the immune response triggered by the vaccine. While the current vaccines provide some protection against new variants, a decline in vaccine efficacy could call for slight changes to the vaccine’s components. Having to revise the vaccinations could place further delays on vaccine rollout, which is detrimental to countries who are experiencing resurgences, and those who have already been impacted by delays. Additionally, the longer it takes for an effective vaccine to be created, the more opportunity the virus has for further virus mutations, an increase in cases of new and existing variants, and more fatalities.
Increased COVID-19 Cases and Deaths
COVID-19 cases and deaths are fluctuating despite ongoing preventative efforts. As countries begin to ease restrictions, others are implementing more to try and combat virus spread. The Chilean Government believes the easing of restrictions in hotspots such as businesses and schools, along with pandemic fatigue, is the cause for the rise in cases. Chile will likely continue to see a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases if the restrictions are not tightened within virus hotspots. Additionally, individual citizens must continue their preventative measures to curb transmission. By contrast, India has implemented school closures, but cases are still increasing across nine provinces, recording 100,000 new cases within 24 hours. Iran is also facing their fourth wave of COVID-19, with 308,604 active infections reported. Case numbers have risen following a surge in trips during the Iranian new year holidays in recent weeks. In Brazil, as cases continue to rise, Intensive Care Units are stretched and forced to turn new patients away. This also blocks the treatment of other highly transmissible and deadly diseases, such as Dengue Fever. Brazil’s death toll will certainly rise in deaths from many diseases and viruses, if patients are unable to receive medical care, along with oxygen shortages.
COVID-19 Vaccination Campaigns
Despite Chile having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, vaccines are proving ineffective as the sole line of defense against COVID-19. India is concerned that the New Delhi government’s initial aggressive rollout approach, with 125,000 doses administered daily, could cause delays in vaccine distribution by administering more than what can be replaced and/or produced. Increasing doses is only effective if those who are most susceptible to the disease receive the vaccine first. Despite ongoing efforts, India’s death rate is still increasing with 159,216 in a short period, making the country the third highest from COVID-19 deaths. It is likely that as cases increase, more fatalities will occur, prolonging lockdown measures, and impacting international travel and trade. Currently, Iran is experiencing slow vaccination rollouts with only 1.4% of the population vaccinated. With such a low percentage of people vaccinated, this suggests that cases and deaths could still occur, and further measures must still be implemented to control the spread of the virus. In efforts to increase virus prevention, specifically the rollout, COVAX has delivered over 700,000 vaccines.
Further Action to Reduce COVID-19 Cases and Deaths
A year on since the declaration of the pandemic, countries are still seeing increases in cases and deaths despite implementing preventative measures. In India, vaccination shortages could decrease access to one form of virus protection, leading to increased cases, and the need to implement further and/or stricter protection measures. Iran is facing a similar issue and does not want to institute a full lockdown, although with increasing cases this could be one way of controlling virus spread. Chile is set to reimpose strict lockdown aiming to further mitigate the spread of the virus along with the ongoing vaccination rollout. India, Iran, and Chile demonstrate how active the virus still is, and the importance of working to prevent further outbreaks. Whilst the vaccination campaigns are not controlled by civilians, they must remain vigilant in practicing social distancing and mask-wearing as primary protection from COVID-19.
________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)
 Brazil detects first case of South African variant, grave shortage looms as death toll soars, Reuters, April 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-brazil-variant-idUSKBN2BU2KA
 The effects of virus variants on COVID-19 vaccines, The World Health Organization, March 2021, https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-effects-of-virus-variants-on-covid-19-vaccines
 Top Indian vaccine maker’s production capacity is reportedly ‘stressed’ as Covid-19 cases rise, CNBC, April 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/08/india-covid-19-cases-rise-vaccination-accelerates.html
 Chile’s lauded vaccine rollout fails to save it from Covid surge, Financial Times, April 2021, https://www.ft.com/content/89992bc9-051a-42b5-8be0-60edad4165cb
 Despite Chile’s Speedy Covid-19 Vaccination Drive, Cases Soar, The New York Times, April 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/30/world/americas/chile-vaccination-cases-surge.html