COVID-19 widened the gap in universal access to energy, clean cooking fuel: UN report

Down To Earth | June 10, 2021

COVID-19 widened the gap in universal access to electricity, clean cooking fuel: UN report

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has made basic electricity services unaffordable for up to 30 million people, who could previously afford access, according to a new United Nations (UN) report.

The number of people without access to electricity had reduced to 759 million in 2019 from 1.2 billion globally in 2010, the paper mentioned. “But the financial impact of COVID-19 has undone the gains in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.”

In 2030, an estimated 660 million people will still not have access to electricity, the report said.

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How the COVID pandemic is changing global science collaborations

Brendan Maher & Richard Van Noorden

Nature | June 16, 2021

Cartoon showing two researchers wearing masks on a video call, elbow-bumping through the screen.
Illustration by Fabio Buonocore

In February 2020, as early COVID outbreaks were expanding in many countries, Nevan Krogan was grappling with a different kind of surge — in the size of his research collaboration. Krogan, a systems biologist, had been focused on tackling pressing issues in biology and health by forming interdisciplinary collaborations through the Quantitative Bioscience Institute (QBI) at the University of California, San Francisco. His colleagues were eager to work on the new coronavirus — and they soon had lots of company.

What started as 10 scientists around a table jumped to 12 groups within a week, then to 42. When lockdowns started in March, the team’s first Zoom call was exhilarating but chaotic. Hundreds of people joined, says Jacqueline Fabius, the QBI’s chief operating officer.

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Latin America finds its own answers to produce COVID-19 vaccines and save lives

Rubén Sierra

Council on Hemispheric Affairs | February 18, 2021

In a world harmed by the severe COVID-19 pandemic, the access to vaccines is being distorted by the rules of the open market and the deep gap between rich and poor nations. As the director of the World Health Organization (WHO), doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recently said, “the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.” In a formal declaration the WHO warns that “in the majority of low and middle-income countries, vaccination has not even started which is a catastrophe as hospitals fill up.”[1]

The People’s Vaccine Alliance (a coalition of organizations such as Oxfam, UNAIDS and Global Justice Now) accused the three biggest COVID-19 vaccine producers, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, of strangling the global supply of vaccines because of their intellectual-property protections. The coalition denounces that these companies plan to produce enough vaccines to cover just 1.5% of the global population during 2021 while they remain “prohibitively expensive for many poor nations.”[2]Read More »


Accountability is oxygen to civic life : How India could have managed COVID-19 better

Inayat Sabhikhi

Down To Earth | May 17, 2021

Choosing alternatives from existing laws could have led to better Covid-19 management in India. Photo: Vikas Choudhary/CSE

Indians are dying in large numbers not just due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but also due to the lack of access to healthcare. Extremely visible in this tragedy and trauma is the misgovernance and lack of accountability.

People are vowing to never forget. In an exercise of collective record and memory keeping, volunteers are crowdsourcing a list of lives lost due to lack of oxygen.

The misgovernance has proved to be deadly but this is not the only lapse of governance that has led to the loss of people’s lives. As we memorialise the preventable lives lost, let us also remember the others from the first lockdown.Read More »


Effect of socioeconomic inequalities and vulnerabilities on health-system preparedness and response to COVID-19 in Brazil: a comprehensive analysis

Rudi Rocha, PhD; Prof Rifat Atun, FRCP; Adriano Massuda, PhD; Beatriz Rache, MSc; Paula Spinola, MSc; Letícia Nunes, PhD; Miguel Lago, MSc & Prof Marcia C Castro, PhD

The Lancet | Open Access | Published: April 12, 2021 | DOI:



COVID-19 spread rapidly in Brazil despite the country’s well established health and social protection systems. Understanding the relationships between health-system preparedness, responses to COVID-19, and the pattern of spread of the epidemic is particularly important in a country marked by wide inequalities in socioeconomic characteristics (eg, housing and employment status) and other health risks (age structure and burden of chronic disease).

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Abdala: For life, for Cuba (+Photos)

The anti-COVID candidate vaccine (CIGB-66) is being distributed in the country’s provinces where intervention trials began yesterday

Maby Martinez Rodriguez, Ortelio González Martínez and Germán Veloz Placencia

Granma | May 11, 2021

Photo: Taymi

Workers at Emcomed, Cuba’s state enterprise medical supplier, are responsible for distributing the Abdala candidate vaccine (CIGB-66) to several of the country’s provinces, where intervention trials began yesterday.

As reported on Twitter by the Cuban Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industry Enterprise Group (BioCubaFarma), doses of the vaccine developed by the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center in Havana, have been delivered to pharmaceutical distributors in Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, Camagüey, Las Tunas and Holguín.Read More »


Vaccine Patents = Mass Murder

Paul Demarty

Climate and Capitalism | May 07, 2021

As a new wave of Covid-19 rips through many countries, notably India, Argentina and Brazil, it is disconcerting to look on from the vantage point of a country where things are — for now — well under control, with over half the population at least partly vaccinated.

With scientific opinion — and plain common sense — united in the certainty that Britain and the few other rich countries which have had a successful vaccination program still cannot protect themselves so long as some of the most populous countries on earth are effectively giant Petri dishes for the emergence of new variants of the virus, scrutiny must rightly fall on Britain’s failure to aid the global effort adequately. And, while much of the discussion focuses on how many spare vaccine shots are ‘donated,’ there is a far more serious moral failure on display in the present situation.Read More »


Why India must tackle a mutating virus head-on

Anurag Agrawal* and Disha Agrawal**

Nature India | April 28, 2021

Mutations occur inside infected humans — countries with the most infections produce the most mutations.

© Owais Rashid Hakiem

As India struggles through a massive second wave of COVID-19 infections, the country is simultaneously faced with another recurring but avoidable pattern – that of apportioning blame to ‘mutant’ variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for a rampaging pandemic.

While it is correct to inculpate these ‘variants of concern’ or ‘variants of interest’ (VoC / VoI) in some measure, the overall picture is more complex. Importantly, this bit of the pandemic puzzle was not totally unpredictable. A terrifying second wave in the Brazilian city of Manaus, after half its population was tested positive for the novel coronavirus1, is a stark example, often cited in scientific and public discussions to emphasize the need for continued precautions and vaccination. The biggest and most preventable mistake was, of course, laxity in COVID-appropriate behaviour at every level. The sections of society most able to observe the necessary precautions, seemed least inclined to do so. However, just as the P.1 variant drove the resurgence in Brazil, variants with increased transmissibility and potential to escape the human immune system have likely played an important role in India.Read More »


How the world failed to curb COVID

Amy Maxmen

Nature | May 12, 2021

A woman at a grave in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil
More than 400,000 people in Brazil have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.Credit: Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty

The World Health Organization (WHO) was too cautious in communicating the risks of COVID-19 early last year, according to the first major investigation of the global pandemic response. Had it been bolder, and had nations heeded its guidance, the pandemic might have been curtailed, say the authors of the report.

Last year, during the annual World Health Assembly, countries demanded that the WHO initiate an independent review of how the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, in order to draw lessons for the future. The resulting report, released on 12 May, was assembled by a panel of 13 global-health experts partly appointed by, but independent from, the WHO.Read More »


LDF’s handling of COVID-19 in Kerala helped it retain power

K A Shaji

Down To Earth | May 03, 2021

Pinarayi Vijayan casting his vote. Photo: @CMOKerala

 Pinarayi Vijayan casting his vote. Photo: @CMOKerala
The incumbent Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala retained power in the state largely due to the moves it took in the last year-and-a-half to tackle the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), observers said.

Kerala, which has India’s most robust public healthcare system, is now struggling to beat back the second wave of COVID-19. The state is now behind only Maharashtra in the total number of COVID-19 cases.

However, Keralites have been appreciative of the way the LDF government has handled the crisis so far. It was projected as a ‘global model’ in the early days of the pandemic. Today, it also has the lowest death rate due to COVID-19 in India.Read More »