World Briefs: Nations across the globe and their fights against COVID-19


Emily Wyrwa and Juliette Ciullo

South Africa 

Coronavirus test result: Positive 

A lab study from New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) suggests the South African variant is predicted to reduce Pfizer vaccine efficiency by two-thirds. There are many unique challenges to the pandemic in Africa, which first impacted Africa when a traveler brought the disease from Italy in March 2020. Eighty percent of South Africans do not have health insurance, and widespread poverty (thus informal settlements) makes COVID-19 prevention measures, like hand-washing and social distancing, hard to implement. With the highest HIV burden in the world, ensuring that non-COVID patients receive necessary treatment is yet another challenge. On the African continent, South Africa has suffered the most in terms of the pandemic, but they still hosted their International Public Arts Festival on Feb. 10-14 2020, although turnout was low. 


New Zealand

Coronavirus test result: Negative 

New Zealand has largely been revered as the model for tackling the pandemic.  Its “go early, go hard,” strategy is hallowed on the world stage, for it allowed for COVID numbers to stay low, and the curve to be flattened from the get-go. 

In October, New Zealand was declared COVID free, affording its residents the opportunity to once again gather without restrictions.

However, on Feb. 14, 2021, a family of three reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 in Auckland, which has put the country at large on high alert. As a result, Auckland went under a three-day lockdown on Feb. 14 – the first lockdown in over six months – as to prevent further transmission. The lockdown was lifted on Feb. 17. 

As of Feb. 2, 2021, New Zealand provisionally approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Initial batches of the vaccine are expected to arrive by the end of March, with frontline workers and high-risk individuals to be the first to receive it.



Coronavirus test result: Positive 

The government, despite alarming coronavirus statistics, delayed a shutdown in December, and responded two weeks too late, ignoring the very standards they set. 

The Mexican President has not used a stimulus plan for the unemployed and to support business, so any shutdown would have drastic effects on the nation’s economy.  

Despite declining over the summer, Mexico is in its worst surge yet, and medical facilities and staff are on the verge of collapse. For instance, Ajusco Medio hospital is at 122 percent capacity, and hasn’t been below 100 percent since May, 2020. Unfortunately, medical care is not Mexico’s only concern: as of now, they have vaccinated a mere 1 percent of the population. On Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 the Mexican foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, UN Security Council criticized richer countries for hoarding vaccines, as more than 100 countries have not received vaccines yet, while 75 percent of the first doses went to the top 10 countries that accounts for 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). 



Coronavirus test result: Negative

Israel is a global pioneer in terms of vaccine rollout. It plans to vaccinate its entire adult population by the end of March, making it the first country to do so. The government made a deal with Pfizer in which the government was provided enough vaccine doses for the entire adult population in exchange for providing data regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine. In a study of more than 1 million adults, where half were vaccinated, those who were vaccinated were 94 percent less likely to contract COVID-19 than they would be sans vaccine. 

As of Feb. 17, 2021, Israel has vaccinated 78 per 100 adults, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Fauci noted that the efficacy of the vaccine highlighted its importance, not only to protecting individuals, but for working towards ultimate herd immunity.