The Times of Israel
The Times of Israel is an Israel-based English online newspaper launched in 2012. It was co-founded by journalist David Horovitz, who is also the founding editor, and American hedge fund manager Seth Klarman. It covers "developments in Israel, the Middle East and around the Jewish world."
Ideas
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Vaccines v. Variants: When Can We Put The Pandemic Behind Us?

As the first coronavirus wave finally abated late last spring, experts warned us that the pandemic was far from over. Second and third (and more) waves were likely, and new restrictions would be necessary to limit the death toll. There was only one sure way out of these pandemic times, a vaccine, which could take years to develop.

And yet today, despite the seemingly miraculous arrival of effective vaccines, and more than three billion doses already administered around the world, we still find ourselves asking the Question: When will it end?

New anxieties right now are being fueled by the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, including in countries that are leading the vaccine race. In the UK, where nearly two-thirds of adults are fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "irreversible" roadmap to normality is looking increasingly blurred with 120,000 new COVID cases in the past week. In Israel, where more than 85% of those eligible are vaccinated, caseload levels have climbed this week to the highest since April, reports The Times of Israel.

The good news is that the virus is spreading mostly amongst young people, and studies suggest that most vaccines are highly effective against hospitalization from the Delta variant, which represents almost every current infection in the UK and the majority in Israel.

Still, even while hospitalizations are fewer, Israeli health officials report that half of new COVID-19 cases are, in fact, in vaccinated people.

So if the Delta variant more easily bypasses vaccines, but people get less sick, what does it mean for our Question about collectively bidding farewell to the pandemic?

Officials must continue to motivate enough people to get vaccinated.

The most immediate worry is of course that hospitalizations will begin to rise; after all, the symptoms of the new variant are different — more similar to those of the flu or even hay fever — and so the longer-term effects might also deviate from the initial COVID-19 strain.

But more likely perhaps, is a drawn-out battle between vaccines and new variants, or a combination of vaccination and continued social distancing measures. Indeed, many experts believe that vaccinations or lockdowns alone won't be enough to slow the spread of the contagious new variants.

In Australia, where strict lockdown measures, stringent border controls and efficient contact-tracing systems left the country largely detached from the pandemic, Delta variant cases have nonetheless ballooned in the last few weeks, forcing Sydney, Darwin, Perth and Brisbane into a new quarantine.

If a more holistic approach becomes the way, combining mass vaccination with restrictions to reduce the spread, policymakers face the same questions about how to best contain the virus: Can we go to the beach? How effective are masks? Simultaneously, officials must continue to motivate enough people to get vaccinated.

And of course, there are huge swaths of the world still mired in the pandemic, with scant access to effective vaccines. Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union special envoy leading efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the continent, blasted Europe on Thursday, as Africa faces a third surge of infections. "Not one dose, not one vial, has left a European factory for Africa," Masiyawa said.

Meanwhile in France, like many other Western countries, vaccination rollouts seem to have reached a ceiling, with the daily number of people receiving their first dose having dropped to its lowest level since April, French daily Les Echos reports.

So it seems that the answer to when this will all be over is a matter of definition. As a complete eradication of the virus seems unlikely in the near future, the best case scenario is one where the virus exists among us, but doesn't make us severely ill. In such a case then, yes, things will go back to normal — but it will be a "normal" in which we're constantly aware that another pandemic is always just one cough away.

Coronavirus

COVID Death Toll At 1.5 Million: A World United By Those We Lost

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the planet, and we remember those we lost from more than 20 different countries.

PARIS — It's a staggering number, one that in the early days of the pandemic, few would have even dared to imagine. And yet, here we are: The worldwide COVID-19 death toll is now set to pass 1.5 million.

Those we've lost include some of the biggest and most advanced countries, including the United States, which has registered the most deaths (271,000+), followed by Brazil (174,000+) and India (138,000+). But this pandemic, the first of this amplitude in the era of airline travel and full-throttle globalization has reached virtually every corner of the world. That means 27 have also died in Iceland and 29 in Singapore, alongside the more than 39,000 in Argentina, 57,000 in Italy and 49,000 in Iran. And so on ... sadly.

Even with a vaccine on its way, current forecasting models say it is likely that the final toll will include an additional one million lives taken by the coronavirus.

The impact of all of this death — on nations, cities and neighborhoods, on governments and economies — is immeasurable. But nowhere, of course, is the absence of all those lost lives felt more acutely than among the families and friends of those we've lost. National and local media have spent the past nine months chronicling their departed citizens and neighbors. Now, as a reminder of how this pandemic has connected the whole world in grief, here is just a small sample of COVID-19 victims from different countries and different backgrounds, from an aging bodybuilder in China to a Brazilian mother who died while seven months pregnant to a Congolese-born star student in Quebec.

CANADA (12,000+ deaths)

Don Béni Kabangu Nsapu, 19

Montreal

Don Béni Kabangu Nsapu, just 19, became Quebec's youngest coronavirus victim when he died on Aug. 16 from complications due to COVID-19. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he lived in the Montreal area where he received last year's award for the high school student who demonstrated the most academic and athletic perseverance.

He was first brought to hospital when he contracted a fever. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 and sent home to quarantine.

Three weeks later, his state of health deteriorated, explained his father, Alain Lukinda Nsapu: "It was at the end of the third week that it got worse," he said. "We took him to the hospital. Nine days later he died."

This young death shocked the local community. Stéphane Kalonga, the teenager's former soccer coach at École secondaire de la Pointe-Aux-Trembles, described him as "an exemplary boy, very polite and very courteous. He had a lot of dreams and then it was all over just like that."

U.S.A (274,000+ deaths)

Bethany Nesbitt, 20

Winona Lake, Indiana

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Bethany Nesbitt had hoped to pursue a career as a child health specialist, "helping children and families navigate the process of illness, injury, disability, trauma, or hospitalization," according to the Grace College website in Winona Lake, Indiana. The youngest of nine siblings, Nesbitt was expected to graduate next spring.

This Grace College student died on October 29 in her dormitory room. She had been isolating there for ten days after her COVID-19 diagnoses, said her brother, Stephen Nesbitt, a journalist with The Atlantic.

He tweeted that "the cause of death was a pulmonary embolism—the result of a blood clot—widely recognized as a common cause of death in COVID-19 patients."

She began showing symptoms and was tested for the virus. She also monitored her oxygen saturation levels, as she was asthmatic. When her oxygen levels dropped, she went to the emergency room, but doctors said she did not have a severe case of the virus and seemed to be recovering, so they sent her back to her dorm. Her oxygen levels stabilised and she was fever-free on October 28. She felt the worst was past. On October 29, she watched Netflix and went to bed. She was found dead the next morning.

"Bethany was a selfless and loving friend, a source of constant encouragement to all those around her," said her family in a statement. "She had a passion for helping others, especially children, and her sassy sense of humor and wonderful laugh put them at ease."

MEXICO (107,000+ deaths)

Jesús Ricardo Ríos Rivera, 50

Atizapán

By the time Jesús Ricardo Ríos Rivera finally got his test results, on April 8, it was too late. The 50-year-old pediatrician in Atizapán, just outside of Mexico City, had been feverish and struggling to breathe. Just two days after being admitted to hospital, the father of two was gone.

His widow, Ivonne Santana Olguín, never had a chance to say goodbye. She only saw his corpse from a distance as he was taken in a body bag to be cremated, Mexican daily La Silla Rota reported.

To date, the pandemic has taken more than 100,000 lives in Mexico. Ríos Rivera was one of the early victims. At the time, the protective gear provided to health workers was minimal, and there weren't many testing kits on hand at the hospital where he worked.

Even though the pediatrician hadn't been treating COVID-19 patients, all practicing doctors are at higher risk than most. And back in March, when Ríos Rivera was feeling sick and suspected that he'd been in contact with an infected person, colleagues twice declined his request to be tested because of a shortage of tests. "Unfortunately, my husband's isn't the only such case," Santana Olguín later said. "A lot of people complain that they're not given the test because they don't have all the symptoms, and that's not good."

BRAZIL (174,000+ deaths)

Celma Castro, 39

Venda Nova do Imigrante

foto de Celma Castro

Celma Castro had always dreamed of having two children. After giving birth a year earlier to a boy, the native of the coastal Brazilian town of Venda Nova do Imigrante got the good news from the doctors: "She was ecstatic about the arrival of the girl," Rosi Cruz, a longtime friend told Folha de S. Paulo daily.

On May 18, seven months into her pregnancy, Castro tested positive for COVID-19. Three days later, with her condition deteriorating, she was taken to the hospital and intubated.

Marcela was born the day after by caesarean section. The mother of two died on June 7, having never recovered consciousness, unable to say goodbye to her loved ones — or meet her newborn daughter, who tested negative for COVID.

ECUADOR (13,000 deaths)

Giovanni José Coppiano Campoverde, 54

Guayaquil

Giovanni José Coppiano Campoverde was an Ecuadorian radiologist, a serious job. But it was as Copito the clown that most people remember him.

A pioneer in children's entertainment nationwide, Coppiano studied radiology and later earned a master's in Management of Health Services After beginning to work in a children's hospital in Guayaquil in the 1990s, he wanted to entertain sick children and, more importantly, lift their spirits — so he started doing small gags and telling jokes. In doing so, he discovered his calling. Coppiano became famous across Ecuador as the "payaso Copito," a chubby clown who wore bright-colored suits, white gloves, and a painted face.

Copito organized shows with assistants, magicians and animated birthdays, children's parties and other celebrations. People who knew him say he was very proud of his work as a clown. "Every child is unique, every family different and every party special," he wrote about his passion on his website.

Coppiano contracted COVID-19 right as the illness began to overwhelm Ecuador's fragile health system. He died on April 5, aged 54, one of too many people for the hospital to handle all at once.

U.K. (60,000+ deaths)

Rachael Yates, 33

Monmouthshire, Wales

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Rachael Yates worked as a prison officer at Usk prison in Monmouthshire when she passed away, this past April. Before taking her role at the category C prison, she had worked at the town's post office. She is the fourth prison employee known to have died in the UK after falling ill with COVID-19.

A Facebook post from from the Usk town council said: "Many of you will remember Rachael and her cheery nature working alongside Jane behind the counter at the old post office in Bridge Street — often in Victorian costume — and some of you may have seen her recently around Usk, where she had been working at Usk prison."

A prison service spokeswoman said: "An officer at HMP Usk sadly passed away on 21 April and our deepest sympathies are with her loved ones and colleagues at this difficult time."

Like so with so many victims of the virus, Yates's family never had a chance to say goodbye. That was "the worst thing of all," said her mother, Julie Jacques.

"I just want people to be aware that this can happen to anybody, and they must remember social distancing. We should never be having these problems in our world in 2020," she said.

IRELAND

Helen Dillon, 87, and Brendan Dillon, 91

Dublin

Helen and Brendan Dillon lived all their married life in Clontarf.

Helen and Brendan Dillon grew up less than a mile from each other in Dublin's north inner city. They were married for 61 years and died within two weeks of each other. They now lie together in Glasnevin Cemetery. She was 87 and he was just three weeks shy of his 92nd birthday.

Helan and Brendan met in their 20s when both worked for then State agency the Land Commission. They married in 1958 and Brendan moved to the department of social welfare. Helen, because of the traditional ban on women working after marriage, had to give up her job. She stayed home to mind their five children but got involved in business again when her husband started a company creating form sheets for horse racing.

Always active, Helen and Brendan had different but complementary interests. Brendan played a bit of cricket in his younger days and greatly enjoyed pitch and putt. But his favourite pastime was classical music, about which he was a true expert.

Brendan was always a walker who up to the age of 89 walked 10-12 miles a day. Helen's favourite pastime was watching westerns.

One evening Brendan went for his usual walk, came home for dinner and enjoyed a glass of wine. The next day he was in the Mater hospital where he died five days later, on April 21.

Helen could not attend the funeral and her last sight of her husband was looking out the window and waving at his coffin as the hearse passed their Castle Grove home where so many of their neighbors stood and applauded in tribute.

Some days later Helen began to display symptoms and was admitted to hospital, where she died on May 3, five hours before the birth of her great-granddaughter Ruby.

SWEDEN (7,000+ deaths)

Hanna Altinsu, 81

Södertälje

Image may contain: 1 person, phone

In the Altinsu family home north of Stockholm, Hanna spent all of his later days caring for his sick wife Fehime, starting long before the pandemic struck. So when Fehime's condition deteriorated in March, and she suddenly stopped eating, the family had no idea it was COVID-19.

When Hanna soon fell ill too, the customary Sunday dinners with the couple's two sons, Gabriel and Daniel, turned into hospital visits. Three weeks after Fehime died from complications connected with the virus, Hanna followed her on April 9.

"Their fate was to never part, they were always together," their son Gabriel said.

ITALY (57,000+ deaths)

Federico Castellin, 34

Milan

When he died last March, Federico Castellin claimed two grim titles: he became Italy's 10,000th COVID-19 victim, but also, at the age of just 34, the country's youngest.

Castellin was particularly well known in the town of Cinisello Balsamo, located about 10 kilometers northeast of Milan, in Lombardy, the Italian region hit hardest by the pandemic.

Castellin started life helping behind the counter of his father's tobacco shop in the Borgomisto district. He took over the running of the Zen bar in Piazza Gramsci a year and a half ago, with the aim of restoring the town's most historic bar to its former glory. But then, with frightening speed, he succumbed to the coronavirus, dying on March 27.

Castellin left behind his wife, Anna, and a one-year-old son.

"A sunny and kind young man." That's how Paolo Tamborini, president of the Cinisello town council, remembers him. "He was a beautiful person. Always ready to give himself generously to others."

GREECE (2,600+ deaths)

Bishop Ioannis, 62

Lagadas

Serbia Mourns Aged Patriarch

Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas, a senior clergyman in Greek's Orthodox Church, was an outspoken advocate of maintaining communion during the pandemic. He argued that there's no risk of transmission in the ceremony, in which worshippers are personally handed bread and wine with a shared spoon.

He died on Nov. 15 after contracting the coronavirus and was buried a day later.

Critics were quick to highlight the bishop's stance on the communion issue. But the church's governing body, the Holy Synod, continues to defend him.

"Certain aspiring leaders of public opinion are insisting in a neurotic manner on concentrating exclusively on Holy Communion," a statement from the Synod said. "They cite unscientific correlations with the spread of the coronavirus, in defiance of epidemiological evidence."

Greek health experts have mostly avoided commenting on church practices but have noted that World Health Organization guidelines list saliva droplets as a leading means of contamination. The town of Lagadas, outside Greece's second-largest city of Thessaloniki, is a northern region experiencing the highest rate of infection in the country.

GERMANY (17,700+ deaths)

Metin Aslan, 63

Braunschweig

BTEU / Avrupalı-Türk İşadamları/kadınları Birliği - Posts | Facebook

When Metin Aslan arrived in Germany from Turkey with his father at age 15, he spoke hardly any German and struggled to integrate. He was a hard worker, however, and after finding his first job as a kitchen assistant, he juggled several jobs and changed paths frequently.

In his life, he was a glassblower, a steel cooker, a boxer, a locksmith and a truck driver. But it was only when he opened a Turkish-Kurdish restaurant in Braunschweig, near Hanover, that he finally landed on his life project.

The former dishwasher made a name for himself as Braunschweig's cult restaurateur. Even with the success of his restaurant, he was a man without airs, someone who sweated in the kitchen and still delivered food himself to the local junior hockey teams.

When Aslan died on April 5, aged 63, local media reported that the entire city mourned. The soccer club Eintracht Braunschweig wrote that they had lost a friend. "He was a Braunschweig man, body and soul," the mayor said.

Aslan leaves behind a widow and their children. They still run his restaurant, which continues to do well despite the restrictions. Local media says they haven't forgotten how to smile.

RUSSIA (41,000+ deaths)

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, 57

Moscow

UFC

Nicknamed the "Father of Dagestan MMA", Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov was a former wrestler and specialist in the Soviet martial art of sambo. After retiring, he earned a reputation as a maker of champions in southern Russia and even helped his son Khabib to become UFC champion and one of the greatest ever mixed martial arts fighters in history, having yet to be defeated in the spring.

In April, Abdulmanap was treated at home in Kirovaul for a suspected case of pneumonia. He tested negative for COVID-19, but shortly after his condition worsened and he was rushed to a hospital in Moscow.

The pneumonia led to a heart attack, an emergency bypass surgery, then to induced coma. While in the ICU, Abdulmanap eventually tested positive to COVID-19, and the virus began to alter the functioning of his heart, brain and kidneys. He died in Moscow on July 3.

His son Khabib stepped back into the octagon to pay tribute to his father and won the match — before shocking the UFC world by announcing his retirement. Coached by his father, Khabib Nurmagomedov has fought 29 matches in his career. He remains undefeated.

ZIMBABWE (277 deaths)

Zororo Makamba, 30

Harare

TV with Thinus: Coronavirus: TV presenter Zororo Makamba (30) dead as  Zimbabwe

Cooped up in an isolation ward, a young Zimbabwean man who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, pleaded with his family to get him more help. Zororo Makamba, 30, was "alone and scared," his older brother told Zimbabwe's privately owned Daily News newspaper.

Makamba was being treated in the Wilkins Hospital, designated as the main isolation facility for coronavirus patients in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. Shortly after he talked to his family, he was dead. The death of Makamba, a well-known journalist, came swiftly — less than three days after his diagnosis on March 23.

Famous for his online social and political commentary, Makamba wrote under the banner "State of the Nation." His death marked an unwanted milestone: He was the country's first coronavirus casualty and it shocked Zimbabwe. The fact that Makamba came from a wealthy, high-profile family was not enough to save him, and family members have argued that his death has exposed the inadequacies of the country's medical response to the threat of coronavirus.

Makamba had undergone surgery last November to remove a tumour from under his lung and was in recovery. While his family admit that his immune system was compromised, they insist that his death could have been avoided.

SOUTH AFRICA (21,000+ deaths)

Gita Ramjee, 45

Umhlanga

Gita Ramjee spent her life looking for solutions to prevent HIV, focusing on women in South Africa. Born in Kampala, Uganda, she became an internationally recognized expert in the field of microbicide research, and was notably at the forefront of attempts to find an effective HIV vaccine.

Ramjee's pioneering career — during which she worked in close relationship with UNAIDS, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust — led to her receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for HIV Prevention in 2012. She was also awarded the "Outstanding Female Scientist" award from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership in 2018.

Gita Ramjee fell ill after returning to South Africa in mid-March from a work-related trip to London.

Shortly after landing back in South Africa, she was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. She died from COVID-19 complications on March 31 in a hospital in Umhlanga, near the coastal city of Durban.Deputy President of South Africa David Mabuza mourned Ramjee's passing by saying, "In her, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of another global pandemic".

ALGERIA (2,000+ deaths)

Moussa Benhamadi, 67

Algiers

Algérie : L

Former Algerian Minister of Telecommunications Moussa Benhamadi, close to the family of deposed president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, died on July 17 of coronavirus in Algiers. He had contracted the virus in prison, where he was being held on corruption charges.

"Moussa Benhamadi contracted the virus on July 4, but he was only brought to hospital nine days later, where he died," his brother Hocine Benhamadi said.

Born on Jan. 4, 1953 in Ras El Oued, in eastern Algeria, Moussa Benhamadi started his career as a computer engineer before he was elected in 2002 as a deputy of the National Liberation Front, an allied party in power.

He had been held in pre-trial detention at El Harrach prison since September 2019 as part of an investigation into corruption involving the Algerian high-tech firm Condor Electronics headed by his brother Abderahmane.

Abderahmane, also suspected of corruption, was released from detention in April. Another brother, Omar, Condor's managing director, is still behind bars.

IRAN (49,000+ deaths)

Parviz Purhosseini, 79

Tehran

Actor Parviz Pourhosseini dies at 79

Iranian actor Mohsen Tanabandeh recently wrote on his Instagram account about the daily "dread of turning on the mobile phone" to discover that another friend or relative had died. On Nov. 27, the name was Parviz Purhosseini, a noted screen and stage actor who died of the coronavirus after spending two weeks in hospital, the Tehran daily Hamshahri reported.

Purhosseini's son, Purang, published pictures of his father on his Instagram account, saying he had "fought to the end" and praised doctors and nurses for striving "day and night" to save his life. "They were truly extraordinary," he said in gratitude to staff at the Firuzgar hospital in Tehran.

Purhosseini was a graduate of Tehran University's fine arts faculty. He had played in Iranian television series and plays including local versions of productions by Britain's Peter Brook. He also had parts in vintage films from the 1980s and 90s, including Kamal ol-Molk, on the life of a prominent artist of the 19th century.

ISRAEL (2,000+ deaths)

Yehuda Barkan, 75

Jerusalem

Yehuda Barkan, l

Actor Yehuda Barkan not only helped define Israeli comedy in films like Hagiga B'Snooker but was also a lifelong practical joker. Barkan, who was from the coastal city of Netanya, died last month of COVID-19.

Born to Yiddish-speaking parents from Czechoslovakia and Poland, he began acting after his military service, but was expelled from the Beit Zvi School of Performing Arts. He instead developed his passion for humor, pranking people on an Israeli radio show.

He gained fame in the 1970s starring in "bourekas' movies. These eventual cult classics explored ethical tensions between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi Jews. In the film Lupo!, Barkan — then aged 25 — starred as a middle-aged secondhand furniture dealer.

In a 1971 New York Times review, critic Vincent Canby wrote, "Under all those layers of make-up and charm, Mr. Barkan is, I suspect, an actor of real talent."

He became religious and left the entertainment industry, but returned to acting in the 2010s. In the television series "Yellow Peppers," he played the grandfather of a boy with autism.

He also never lost his sense of humor, taking part in hidden camera shows, including one where unsuspecting couples were set up on blind dates. For his last role, he starred as the romantic lead in the 2019 movie "Love in Suspenders." Upon his passing, Prime Minister Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Barkan, "brought joy to generations of Israelis."

CHINA (4,000+ deaths)

Qiu Jun, 72

Wuhan

Coronavirus: The noted victims of the virus in Wuhan - BBC News

Qiu Jun was in his early 40s when his life took an entirely different direction. That's when the railway maintenance technician started bodybuilding.

Qiu was born in 1948 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, where he studied at a local technical school and then started working in railway maintenance in the Wuchang Vehicle Factory — a line of work he kept at for his whole life.

But in 1990, when Qiu was 42, he found bodybuilding and never looked back. He participated in Hubei Province's first-ever bodybuilding competition, where he finished fifth. And yet, he only began working out seriously after his retirement from the factory in 2003, in the middle of the SARS epidemic.

Qiu survived SARS, but his wife did not. He was known for hitting the gym religiously and for participating in bodybuilding contests, even at age 70. In 2019, he won second place in the elderly category of the international "Olympic World Night" tournament. He became famous on social media after pictures surfaced, showing enviable form for his age.

He was scheduled to take part in another competition in June, but started showing symptoms on Jan. 23 and was taken to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. He died on Feb. 6.

His son is quoted as saying, "The father who never got sick could not escape this disaster."

INDIA (138,000+ deaths)

Jamal Khan, 41

Bijnor

When Jamal Khan, a 41-year-old farmer, developed a fever in August local doctors failed to recognize the risk of COVID, his brother said. It was only when he was transferred to Delhi, 10 days after he first became ill, that he was tested. By then, his lungs were badly damaged, and he died soon after, Asim explained.

"If he would have been diagnosed on time in his own native place, he would have surely survived," the victim's brother said.

India's rudimentary healthcare system has at times struggled to cope with the huge number of coronavirus cases. Many of the victims' relatives have come out to claim there were missed opportunities to cure the infected.

NEW ZEALAND (25 deaths)

Christanthos "Christo" Tzanoudakis, 87

Wellington

Coronavirus: A timeline of the Covid-19 pandemic in New Zealand and  globally | Stuff.co.nz

Christo Tzanoudakis was something of a legend in the Greek community in Wellington. The 87-year-old, originally from Crete, had lived in the New Zealand city for 50 years.

He contracted the coronavirus when he attended his son Manoli's wedding … along with at least 95 other guests. They formed what became known as the Bluff wedding cluster.

Christo had worked on the wharves and owned a fish and chip shop.

One of the founders of the Cretans Association of New Zealand, he served as the president for some years. The group's current president, Stamatis Nikitopoulos, announced Tzanoudakis' death with "a heavy heart" on Facebook.

"He was a very much-loved man by all his family and friends and a well-respected member of the Cretan Associations and the broader Greek Orthodox Community in Wellington."

Christo had planned to move back to Greece after the wedding. But shortly after the event, a first guest tested positive for COVID-19. Then the bride and groom tested positive. On the Thursday after the wedding, Christ got very sick, his son Manoli said.

"He got rushed to hospital. He was going up and down, and then he started deteriorating." Speaking in Greek, Manoli told him to "be strong, and we will get through it."

It was the last thing he said to his father, who died on April 10.

AUSTRALIA (908 deaths)

Maureen Preedy, 70

Perth

Coronavirus Australia: plea for empathy as COVID-19 patients face their  final hours

Maureen Preedy was a mother of two and grandmother of three, an "extroverted" and "vibrant" person, and a keen traveller. She and her husband Barry were due to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary next year, and they loved going on trips around the world with friends every year.

The couple was on a cruise in Italy when news broke that a coronavirus outbreak had flared up on the Costa Victoria cruise ship they were on. Like the other 200 passengers, Maureen and Barry were quarantined in their cabins as the ship docked north of Rome.

Maureen started to feel sick on the ship, and the couple's daughter Simone campaigned for the government to bring them back. When this happened at the end of March, Maureen seemed to be getting worse. After landing, the couple was taken to two different hotel rooms to continue to isolate.

The next day Maureen was rushed to the hospital, where she tested positive for COVID-19 and was put into an induced coma. She never woke up. Barry couldn't see her again — he tested positive but survived, and is devastated by the loss.

"I wish I had said more," daughter Simone told Guardian Australia. "I wish I had pushed on the health stuff. Maybe if she got medical attention sooner things might have been different."

Coronavirus
Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID: The Second Wave Looks Just (And Nothing) Like The First

From Brazil to Canada, Finland to Israel, and well beyond, the impact of the new uptick in coronavirus is being measured across virtually every aspect of society.

Since the first round of lockdowns ended and people around the world were let back into the open, governments have been forced to constantly assess and reassess choices of how much freedom to grant their respective populations. No doubt, we know more about the virus than during the pandemics deadly peak in April and May, but the most important questions (What containment measures are the most efficient? When will we have a vaccine? Masks!?) are still cloaked in uncertainty. Authorities are still grappling with the same life-and-death policy choices as six months ago, though updated the second time around. Here are five key things governments must weigh as a possible second wave looms:


THE ECONOMY With international organizations and individual countries still assessing the economic impact of the pandemic, most governments have ruled out the possibility of a second round of full lockdowns. But national leaders are still walking the tightrope between economic recovery and limiting loss of life, while also having to manage popular opposition and unrest.

  • In France, where President Emmanuel Macron has said that the French economy could not withstand another strict nationwide quarantine after the March-to-May lockdown, partial restrictions have been rolled out instead. Bars and restaurants were closed in southern cities Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, while in other big cities such as Paris, Lille, Bordeaux and Lyon, a partial closure has been imposed between 10 pm and 6 am. Le Figaro reports that the closures have prompted protests in Marseilles, with 100 workers blocking a tunnel on Monday and other bar and restaurant owners threatening to defy the ban.
  • Israel remains the only country to have reimposed a country-wide lockdown, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing a three-week quarantine in mid-September. The move prompted the resignation of ultra-Orthodox Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who said the measures would prevent Jews from attending synagogue over the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holiday, The Times of Israel reports.
  • In Manaou, the largest city in Brazil's Amazon region, bars and river beaches have been closed to contain a new virus outbreak. Manaou is one of the cities hardest-hit by the pandemic, with so many residents dying in April and May that hospitals collapsed and cemeteries ran out of grave slots. As nearly half the city's population tested positive in June, many hoped that Manaou would have reached herd immunity. But Mayor Arthur Virgílio Neto recently proposed a new two-week lockdown, as new infections reached 1,627 between September 24 and 28 — a 30% increase compared to the same period in August.

FACE MASKS The first months of the pandemic were a constant alternation between mask on and mask off, partly because of scientific uncertainty and partly because of supply shortages. Today, most governments view strong pro-mask policies as a viable way to limit the spread, but are choosing different approaches.

  • In Finland, where deaths have remained low throughout the pandemic, 800 people have been infected in the last two weeks. As the national health authorities predict a continued spread in the near future, mask-wearing has been made mandatory in most parts of the country.
  • In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has picked the more surgical approach of making masks compulsory in certain locations, including shops, supermarkets, takeaway restaurants, places of worship, cinemas and museums. This week, as cases continued to surge, the government added taxis to the list. "Your harmless cough can be someone else's death knell," Johnson declared on Tuesday.
  • A third approach has been taken in Italy, where Corriere Della Sera reports that masks are now obligatory in certain regions. Last week, the region of Campania was added to the list, which includes Italy's third-largest city, Naples.

In the UK, masks compulsory in certain locations — Photo: Alex Lentati/London News Pictures/ZUMA

NURSING HOMES Nowhere is infection control more of a life-or-death matter than in elderly care centers. In Sweden, nearly half of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes; while in the U.S., The New York Times reported in June that nearly 40% of total deaths were linked to nursing homes. But with no end to the pandemic in sight, governments and local authorities are forced to balance the risk of letting people visit elderly family and loved ones in the face of the prospect of isolating them again.

  • In Sweden, where nursing homes have been opened to visitors October 1, no major breakouts have occurred. State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has assessed the risk of spread as very low, granted that sanitary guidelines are followed — adding that infections have shifted to occur mostly among young people, reports Dagens Nyheter.
  • In Italy, authorities have chosen to open common areas to visitors while still holding that the best way to protect the elderly is for visitors to not enter. Yet, opening the doors was deemed a necessity, partly because residents won't be able to enjoy the gardens and outdoor spaces when winter arrives, Il Post reports. The visits still have to be organized beforehand, and extra precautions like frequent testing and rigorous safety protocols are kept in place.

SCHOOLS Denmark was the first country in Europe to reopen its primary schools in mid-April after containing the virus, with only 650 deaths to date. The Nordic country's successful strategy of split classes, outdoor lessons, and strict rules for hand-washing and distancing has become a global model. But there is no accepted model right now as the threat of a second wave coincides with the back-to-school season and the virus increasingly spreading disproportionately among younger people.

  • In the South Korean capital Seoul and nearby areas, schools resumed in-person classes on September 21 following a month-long closure. While daily COVID-19 cases have dropped to the lowest levels since mid-August, students are still under a hybrid regimen of in-person and online classes, with in-person classes limited to once or twice a week, Channel News Asia reports.
  • France has stuck with a nationwide everyone-back-to-class policy even as cases have shot above 10,000 per day. Indeed, the highest proportion of so-called "clusters' of COVID concentrations, approximately one-third, are in schools and universities, reports Le Monde.
  • In South Africa — the country with most deaths on the continent — schools were reopened Aug. 1 following delays as teachers' unions claimed schools lacked sufficient health and hygiene measures to keep educators and pupils safe. While students have now returned to the classroom, many public schools are in poor shape and analysts say that a quarter of them have no running water, making adequate hand-washing impossible, according to Africa News.

France has stuck with a nationwide everyone-back-to-class policy — Photo: Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua/ZUMA

BORDERS Beyond the choices about what to do nationally is another key question: opening up international borders. dilemma as other countries pondering the reopening of their borders.

  • Morocco implemented one of the world's strictest border lockdowns, but the country's economy has been dealt a serious blow, especially its tourism industry, which accounts for 7% of its GDP. Tourism professionals have been urging the government to allow travelers back into the country, as the industry experienced enormous losses during the lockdown, with a drop of $1.2 billion in revenue in the first half of 2020. The city of Marrakech, empty of tourists, looks like a "ghost town," Le Monde reports.
  • On Sept.19, Finland finally eased the tightest travel restrictions in Europe and now allows low-risk countries as well as important trade partners to enter the country, Finish site Yle reports. The loosened restrictions now allow travelers arriving from Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Poland, Germany and Cyprus, as well as residents of Australia, Canada and Japan traveling from their home country to Finland.
  • Despite economic pressure, others are not so keen to reopen their borders. This is the case for Canada, as its neighbor, the U.S. is registering the highest number of cases in the world with over 7.4 million infections and highest number of deaths with over 210,000 fatalities. In mid-September the six-months-long closure of the world's longest land border, between the two countries, to "discretionary" travel was extended to at least until Oct. 21.
Ideas
Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID-19 Lockdown Policy: Are We All Sweden Now?

It's now been four months since most of the world reached the agreement that Sweden's no-quarantine strategy had failed. In the end, it was the only European country to never go into lockdown, and as the virus spread inside nursing homes, Sweden's death toll raced beyond that of its Northern neighbors to eventually pass the 5,000-mark in June.


Still, this week, some in Sweden are claiming "vindication" for the country's policy — partially based on the approach of herd immunity — as all-time low numbers of cases have been registered this week as neighbors face rising infections.


For many of the rest of us, our lives have been a constant alternation between mask-on and mask-off, open borders and closed borders, back to office and telework and back to the office again — all to keep the economy going while avoiding our hospitals filling back up. Israel's decision this week to reimpose a three-week lockdown is a notable exception to what has otherwise become clear the past month: Sweden's springtime strategy is now essentially the world's strategy.


Of course, Sweden's healthcare system was never overburdened in the first place, and that everyone else is now emulating the model doesn't necessarily give the lie to the claim of failure. After all, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said himself the country had failed to protect its elderly.

We're still in a fog of uncertainty.

But it's worth considering that had Swedish nursing homes not reeled from decades of neglect and lack of resources, the death toll could have been less than half, and the denunciations heaped upon the health authorities might instead have been praised for not buckling under misplaced international criticism.

This is hypothesizing after the fact, but it's just one more attempt to try to cull meaningful lessons from outcomes we still don't fully understand.

Yet, it's only natural that both policymakers and the rest of us are left trying to establish the limits of our own freedoms, while making sense of often contradictory numbers and reports continuously cascading around us: What does it mean that in many countries infection rates are rising to their highest levels, but death rates continue to plateau? And what to make of the muddled public message when someone like Boris Johnson — who not so long ago was fighting for his life in London's St Thomas' Hospital — tells reluctant Brits to gather "courage" and go to the office? Meanwhile the French government, which imposed one of the world's strictest quarantines in March, is now dismissing even the possibility of another general lockdown even as cases multiply by the day. "It's called "living with the virus," Prime Minister Jean Castex was quoted as saying by Le Monde.


The bigger question tying together the persistent COVID uncertainty: How are we faring against the pandemic?

At a lakeside beach in Stockholm last August — Photo: Wei Xuechao/Xinhua/ZUMA

Established "certainties' continue to prove all but that, not only regarding how the virus spreads (mask-on, mask-off) but also what it does to our health. As school openings are in full swing across the globe, an article in Danish daily Politiken reports a growing number of young people suffering from persistent headaches and respiratory issues months after having recovered from the initial infection. And then there's the ceaseless trickle of new crunched-down medical studies and theories on symptoms ranging from the most trivial ailments to chronic brain damage — all daily and promptly delivered to a population unable to tell the science and the bogus apart. And we haven't even mentioned the vaccine!


Indeed, despite all our efforts, we're still in a fog of uncertainty. And beyond our physical health, the uncertainty itself risks real damage to our mental well-being. Yes, we've gotten through pandemics before, but not in a digital age where we must also battle our addiction to information.

Geopolitics
Worldcrunch

Coronavirus — Global Brief: Quarantine Blues And The Power Of A Jigsaw Puzzle

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus Global Brief in your inbox, sign up here.


SPOTLIGHT: QUARANTINE BLUES AND THE POWER OF A JIGSAW PUZZLE

A sudden rush of stress, trouble sleeping or eating, overwhelming feelings of helplessness, general fatigue. Does it sound familiar? With approximately half the world still forced to live in lockdown, old and new psychological disorders are a widely diffused side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study led by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of Americans feel the current health crisis had impacted their mental health. In France, Le Figaro reported this week that 74% of adults in a recent survey developed sleeping disorders and 34% showed signs of psychological distress.

Humans are social animals — Aristotle taught us that 2,300 years before Mark Zuckerberg cashed in on the concept. And while we can acknowledge that our modern digital tools are providing instant links in the face of our respective quarantines, we are also seeing how crucial in-person interaction and stimuli are to the human experience. Those living alone or forced to put their professional activity on hold are particularly vulnerable to this enforced isolation.

Alongside the more severe threats to our emotional state is a seemingly less menacing effect: boredom. There is a fine line between enjoying some spare time to do nothing and repeatedly having nothing to do, especially when we yearn for distraction from the current uncertainty of the outside world. Board games that were piling up dust in the basement are seeing the light of day again and solo players indeed are able to play across the computer screen with friends and strangers.

Similarly, the lockdown has created one of the highest recorded demand for jigsaw puzzles, a pasttime whose time had seemed to have passed two or three generations ago. The American Puzzle Warehouse reported a jump of 2,000% in business compared to the same period last year. When the world seems to fall apart, putting back pieces together could be the ultimate satisfaction.

— Laure Gautherin


THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: Japan urges citizens to stay home today as new predictions warn that death toll that could reach 400,000 without tighter restrictions. Meanwhile the number killed by COVID-19 in the United States edges close to 30,000, and tops 15,000 in France.

  • WHO funding cut: President Donald Trump cut U.S. funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), blaming the organisation for mismanaging the outbreak of the global pandemic. Experts warn of risks in undermining the sole global coordinator of health contagions.

  • Markets: Stocks dip amid new forecasts that global economic crisis could be worst since the 1930s.

  • Oil Forecast: Oil demand is expected to take a sharp dive in April to a record low not seen in the last 25 years, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

  • Beijing embassy backlash: The Chinese ambassador was summoned by France, following a stream of controversial comments made by Beijing's embassy in Paris on what they perceived as the government's slow response to the coronavirus.

  • Back to school? Children in Denmark up to the age of 11-years-old are being welcomed back to school today, as the Prime Minister of Australia also considers reopening schools.

  • The Quarantine King: Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who'd been quarantining in a German hotel as the coronavirus ravages his country, finally left his ‘harem" lockdown and traveled 20,000 miles home for a national holiday.

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Geopolitics

Coronavirus — Global Brief: Your Health Depends On Helping Poor Countries

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: YOUR HEALTH DEPENDS ON HELPING POOR COUNTRIES

The unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 has simultaneously generated both global solidarity and new heights of navel gazing. You've probably stumbled across the the VIPs sharing their self-absorption on social media. But there are also millions of others who are rightly laser focused on the well-being of their families, the fate of their careers and the challenge of being locked inside their homes for weeks on end. And yet at the same time, many are doing their best to support neighbors and local healthcare workers — and try to imagine a better world for all.

While citizens of the world's richest countries — currently the worst affected by the virus — cheer on their own troops and look to one another for guidance, the path to returning their own home turfs to normality may ultimately require looking abroad, and more specifically at how the pandemic will be tackled in the developing world. As we've seen, this virus travels across borders at lightning speeds — and may indeed flare back up in a "second wave" even after it may appear defeated in any one country.

This means that medical and economic aid should be a global calculation, and inevitably poorer countries will need the most help. "It is clearer than ever that none of us will be safe until all of us are safe," reads a blog post from the World Economic Forum calling for immediate debt cancellation to nations in the developing world.

Quoted in Le Monde, UN Chief Antonio Gutteres puts it this way: "The virus will come back up from the South to the North. So it's in the interest of countries in the North to make a massive investment in Africa." Though coronavirus has pushed each of us deeper into our respective bubbles, the world has never been smaller.

Rozena Crossman​

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: More than one million cases have been registered around the world, Europe accounts for around half. The U.S. records world's highest daily toll with 1,169 deaths.

  • Democrats delay: US Democrats postpone Democratic National Convention to anoint presidential nominee until August.

  • U.S. masks: New York City urges residents to wear masks in public, as White House is expected to issue new face masks guidelines.

  • No exams: France cancels end-of-year national school exams.

  • Gender restrictions: Peru and Panama introduce restrictions of public movement by gender, alternating days out for men and women to slow virus spread.

  • That Mexican beer: Brewer of Corona halts production of beer, after being declared non-essential business by government.

  • What!? Twins born in India during lockdown named Corona and Covid.

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Society
Nicole Mundt

Anti-Vaxx Global: How A Social-Media-Borne Contagion Is Spreading

PARIS — Ebola. Toxic air pollution. The HIV epidemic. Given the plethora of health problems we face, all-but-eradicated diseases like measles, polio and smallpox should be the least of our concerns.

And yet, due to what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls "vaccine hesitancy" — the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines — those bygone illnesses are making a comeback. And it's a serious problem, so much so that WHO opted to include vaccine hesitancy in its latest "top 10" list of global health threats.

Being hesitant towards vaccinations does not necessarily mean being opposed to inoculations. But it does leave a metaphorical window open for people to be sucked into the so-called "anti-vaxx" movement. Most prevalent in the United States, the anti-vaxx movement is widely recognized as a grouping of individuals who are concerned about the institution of vaccinations. Often, they distrust the healthcare system in general.

Anti-vaxxers choose not only to opt out of vaccinations, but also promote their position as superior to the status quo. And with the help of social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, the controversial movement has been able to cross both cultural boundaries and physical borders with its message of misinformation and conspiracy theories. From the United States, it has thus spread far and wide — to Brazil, the Philippines and beyond.

United States

All 50 U.S. states require children to be vaccinated to enter schooling and day-care, but 18 states allow exemptions on the basis of philosophical beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). These views can range from personal, moral or other beliefs that conflict with receiving inoculations. And in places where people have used these exemptions to opt out — in pocket communities in the Pacific Northwest, for example — measles is making a comeback.

Anti-vaxxers choose not only to opt out of vaccinations, but also promote their position as superior to the status quo.

Since the start of the year, Washington State's Clark County Public Health has had 50 reported cases of the measles virus. Of those, 35 cases involved children 10 and under, and 43 of the 50 people infected were unvaccinated. Health authorities are looking at more than 10 other possible measles cases in the area as the outbreak continues.

Philippines

An anti-vaxx movement of sorts also took root in the Philippines in recent years, sparked by concern over a vaccine for dengue fever. The producer, Sanofi Pasteur, acknowledged that its dengue vaccine is not as effective as advertised and has, in some cases, caused severe infections in people who had not previously been exposed to the disease.

Vaccination_in_Philippenes

Health worker preparing vaccinations in the Philippines — Photo: Herman Lumanog/ Pacific Press/ ZUMA

This data, coupled with fear-mongering by political leaders, prompted many people to question (and avoid) vaccinations in general, according to Philstar. The result, again, has been a resurgence of measles. In just the first six weeks of 2019, the Philippines already had more than 4,000 cases of measles and at least 70 confirmed deaths.

Israel

The disease has also reappeared in Israel, which in 2018 had its first death from measles in 15 years. The victim was an unvaccinated child belonging to an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem, according to Israeli newsource, The Times of Israel. Many members of insulated communities within Israel refuse to vaccinate their children on the belief that, due to their limited contact with mainstream society, they are protected from infections that would otherwise harm them. The facts suggest otherwise: In the past year alone, there have been more than 800 measles infections in Israel. Of those, more than 200 were linked to an ultra-orthodox community in Safed that refuses to vaccinate.

Italy

When Europe faced its own measles outbreak in 2017, Italy was particularly hard-hit. The Mediterranean nation accounted for 34% of all cases. Last year, Italy no longer required students to provide proof of vaccination upon entry to public schooling, after a new law pushed through by the majority party in the Italian Parliament, the Five Star Movement (M5S), which includes anti-vaxx representatives. As a result, only about 85% of Italy's pediatric population is now vaccinated against measles, well below the 95% needed to keep the virus from spreading and becoming dangerous for the overall population.

Yet just this week, in light of the growing risk of measles spreading further, Italy reversed itself and required kids to be vaccinated to enter schools. In a recent commentary in Milan-based Corriere della Sera, three Italian researchers explored the anti-vaxx phenomenon in relation to internet activity. "Getting informed about the controversy around the safety and effectiveness of vaccines can be complicated because in reality no controversy exists," wrote the trio, who have authored a study in the "Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. "However the presence of different perspectives (scientific and otherwise) pushes internet users in the trap of "errata par condicio" (errors by equal time)."

Anti-vaxx_protest_in_italy

Anti-vaxx protestors demonstrate in Rome — Photo: Patrizia Cortellessa / Pacific Press/ ZUMA

Brazil

A particularly deadly outbreak of Yellow Fever suggests that anti-vaxx ideas are marking inroads in Brazil as well. In 2018, WHO confirmed some 700 cases of the mosquito-borne illness. Of those, approximately 200 were fatal, a huge portion when considering that when people are vaccinated, the mortality rate associated with Yellow Fever infection ranges from 3% to 7%.

The presumption, then, is that people have been opting against the vaccine, perhaps in response to social-media misinformation linked to a previous Yellow Fever outbreak in 2016. That outbreak prompted masses of people to vaccinate. But when large populations are all vaccinated at once, the rare side effects are bound to occur more frequently due to the sheer numbers showing up. Anti-vaxxers used those exceptions to spread false ideas about the vaccine, Brazilian news source GloboNews reported. That, in turn, resulted in fewer people being vaccinated. And when the next big outbreak came, sadly, a greater number of people died.