In the United States, life is returning to normal. Restaurants and bars are filling up again, vacations are being booked and flights are selling out. At sporting events, maskless fans are hugging and cheering. Memorial Day weekend, the country’s unofficial start to the summer, was celebrated with much more gusto and many more family barbecues than it was a year ago.
That’s all for good reason: A majority of Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and daily new infections and deaths are at their lowest levels in almost a year. The pandemic is slowly receding from the daily lives of many Americans as businesses open up and local authorities ease restrictions. Britain, which on Tuesday reported no new coronavirus-related deaths for the first time since March 2020, can also see the sunlit uplands of a post-pandemic future.
“Covid-19 won’t end with a bang or a parade,” wrote Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “Throughout history, pandemics have ended when the disease ceases to dominate daily life and retreats into the background like other health challenges.”
But the pandemic is hardly in retreat elsewhere. The emergence of more virulent variants of the virus in countries like Brazil and India and the slowness of vaccination efforts in many places outside the West have contributed to deadly new waves. Coronavirus case counts worldwide are already higher in 2021 than they were in 2020. The death toll almost certainly will be.
Southeast Asia, once a bastion of resistance to the virus as it ravaged Western countries, is in the grip of a harrowing spike in infections. Cases in Thailand and Vietnam rose dramatically over the past month. Malaysia is now registering more new infections per million people than any medium- or large-sizecountry in Asia, surpassing India, which remains a global hot spot. On Tuesday, the Malaysian government implemented a nationwide lockdown that will last for the next two weeks.
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