On Monday, August 10, confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 20 million globally. While COVID-19 continues to make its way around the world, a few countries (the U.S., Brazil, India, and Russia) account for the majority of infections. With the disease asymptomatic in an estimated 40 percent of the population, containment remains an international challenge. Still, some countries, such as Thailand and New Zealand (despite a recent small outbreak), have managed to reverse the course of their epidemics, largely halting community transmission of the virus.
This week’s edition of Rabin Martin’s COVID-19 Briefing highlights the growing burden of COVID-19 in certain countries, juxtaposed against other countries’ progress in reducing the virus’ spread. Which measures have led to success? Can these be replicated in other, harder-hit settings? Please find our earlier COVID-19 Briefings here.
Widespread Transmission: Inadequate Responses
The U.S. continues to see a rise in cases across the country, with hotspots no longer solely concentrated in urban areas, as they were during the first few months of the epidemic. Additionally, as outbreaks are tied increasingly to social and family gatherings, the average age of patients may be shifting to younger cohorts. According to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association, there has been a 90 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in children in the past four weeks. The growing rate is causing concern as schools around the U.S. reopen and, in some cases, have already closed again after students tested positive for COVID-19. “In areas with rapid community spread, it’s likely that more children will also be infected, and these data show that,” said AAP President Dr. Sally Goza.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
In Latin America, the number of confirmed cases continues to escalate. Brazil has more than three million cases (behind only the U.S.), with Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Peru seeing a rise in cases every day. “This is the worst crisis in our history,” said Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra. While some countries, like Chile, have imposed strict lockdowns in attempts to contain the epidemic, others, including Brazil and Mexico, continue to take a more lax approach which is fueling the region’s growing burden. “These numbers make it clear that our region remains under the grip of COVID-19,” said Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director, Pan American Health Organization. Speaking to COVID-19’s harmful impact on health systems, Dr. Etienne continued, “The virus isn’t the only threat to people’s health – the pandemic is also disrupting our ability to control transmission of other infectious diseases, many of which we have been fighting to eliminate for decades.”
Country Containment: Models for Success
Faced with the world’s first outbreaks, certain countries in the Asia-Pacific region took swift steps to control their epidemics – with impressive results. For example, New Zealand (with a population of nearly 5 million people) has seen just 1,589 infections since February. The country recorded zero new cases of community transmission for 102 days before four cases were reported on Tuesday, August 10. Reacting in real-time to changing circumstances, the country quickly reinstated a lockdown in Auckland, and raised the threat level (to Level 2 – moderate risk) for the rest of the country.
Similarly, some countries in Southeast Asia have been spared the worst of COVID-19’s impacts as a result of mounting effective responses at the outset of the pandemic, paired with certain social and cultural factors (e.g., no physical contact when greeting). As of Thursday, August 13, Thailand (with a population of over 69 million people) has recorded a total of 3,359 cases and 58 deaths, despite reporting in January the world’s first case of COVID-19 outside of China and experiencing an influx of visitors from endemic countries early in the year. A lockdown was enforced in March, closing businesses and schools, effectively ceasing domestic transmission. Although the news has been positive, national health officials remain cautious: “With the disease still looming, we have to keep our guard up,” said Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, the COVID-19 spokesman for Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health.
Neighboring Vietnam (with a population of around 95 million) only recorded its first death related to COVID-19 on Friday, July 31 – six months after the first cases were reported in the country. The country’s success is attributed to preemptive measures, including closing its borders to almost all travelers, except returning citizens, before the country had any confirmed cases. Meanwhile, Myanmar (population: 54 million people) has recorded 369 cases, with Cambodia (population: 16.5 million people; cases: 272) and Laos (population: about 7 million people; cases: 20) reporting even lower numbers. Reduced testing capacity may have influenced these low reported numbers.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO, Gavi
From the Experts
“We don’t need to wait for a vaccine. We don’t need to wait for a miracle therapeutic…We just need to stay the course and continue to normalize that positive behavior [wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear a face mask].”
Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, Surgeon General, U.S.
Friday, August 7
“It’s mind-blowing that you can’t get the government to improve testing because they just want to say how great it is.”
Bill Gates, Co-founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Sunday, August 9
“We should be aiming for no transmission before we open the schools, and we put kids in harm’s way… We seem to be choosing leisure activities now over children’s safety in a month’s time. And I cannot understand that tradeoff.”
Dr. Caroline Buckee, Associate Director, Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Monday, August 10
“I want to be clear, there are green shoots of hope, and no matter where a country, a region, a city or a town is – it’s never too late to turn the outbreak around. There are two essential elements to addressing the pandemic effectively: Leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
Monday, August 10
“I know that this information [of new COVID-19 cases] will be very difficult to receive. We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again. But we had also prepared for it. And as a team, we have also been here before.”
Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister, New Zealand
Tuesday, August 11
What We’re Reading
- She Was Pregnant with Twins During COVID-19. Why Did Only One Survive? – Emily Bobrow, The New York Times
- Winter Is Coming: Why America’s Window of Opportunity to Beat Back COVID-19 Is Closing – Helen Branswell, STAT News
- Over 900 Health Workers Have Died of COVID-19. And the Toll Is Rising – Danielle Renwick and Shoshana Dubnow, Kaiser Health News
- One Disease. Two Brazils. – Terrence McCoy and Heloísa Traiano, The Washington Post
- This Contact Tracer Is Fighting Two Contagions: The Virus and Fear – Jo Becker, The New York Times
- AI Invents New ‘Recipes’ for Potential COVID-19 Drugs – Robert Service, Science Magazine
- UCSF’s Global Health Institute Fights COVID-19 Around the World – Katherine Conrad, UCSF News
- Antibody Drugs Could Be One of The Best Weapons Against COVID-19. But Will They Matter? – Matthew Herper and Adam Feurstein, STAT News
- Is It Possible to Avert Chaos in the Vaccine Scramble? – J. Stephen Morrison, Anna Carroll, Katherine E. Bliss, Center for Strategic and International Studies
- ‘We’re Losing an Entire Generation Of Scientists.’ COVID-19’s Economic Toll Hits Latin America Hard – Rodrigo Pérez Ortega and Lindzi Wessel, Science Magazine
- Here’s How to Crush the Virus Until Vaccines Arrive – Michael T. Osterholm and Neel Kashkari, The New York Times
Reports from International Governments and Bodies
- WHO COVID-19 Information and Guidance
- WHO Situation Reports, August 10, August 11, August 12
- CDC Coronavirus Resource Page
- COVID-19 Health Systems Response Monitor
- NCD Alliance COVID resources relevant to NCDs
Funding and Policy Trackers
- International Monetary Fund Policy Tracker
- Kaiser Family Foundation Coronavirus Policy Tracker
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Aid Tracker
- Devex Interactive Funding Tracker
Resource Pages and Market Research Literature
- JAMA Resource Center
- The Lancet COVID-19 Resource Centre
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium (NCRC)
- National Academy of Medicine COVID-19 News and Resources
- WIPO COVID-19 IP Policy Tracker
- The COVID Tracking Project
- PharmaIntelligence: Coronavirus – What will the Impact Be?
- Health Affairs Resource Center
- STAT News COVID-19 Tracker
- Global Health NOW’s COVID-19 Expert Reality Check
- International Association of National Public Health Institutes COVID-19 Resources
- Center for Strategic and International Studies The Reopening and Take as Directed Coronavirus Crisis Update Podcast
- Primary Health Care Performance Initiative Forum
- U.S. Global Leadership Coalition COVID-19 Issue Briefs
- Prevent Epidemics Weekly Science Review
- COVID-19 Watch Weekly Updates
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About Rabin Martin
Rabin Martin is a global health strategy firm working at the intersection of private sector capabilities and unmet public health needs. Rooted in our mission to improve health for underserved populations, we design strategies, programs and partnerships that both deliver public health impact and drive business results. We leverage our deep knowledge and networks across a wide range of geographies and health areas to develop tailored solutions for every client engagement. We have helped many clients create bold global health initiatives and innovative multi-sector partnerships. Our specific areas of expertise include infectious disease and vaccines, non-communicable diseases, rare diseases, maternal and child health, and universal health coverage. Our clients and partners include multinational health care companies, multilateral institutions, government agencies, large foundations and leading NGOs. Rabin Martin is part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.
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