Guinea sees Ebola resurface amid COVID pandemic; experts baffled by fall in India cases. Missionaries in the Amazon stoke vaccine skepticism.

A look at how COVID-19 is impacting life around the world

New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, lifted a three-day lockdown that the government had introduced following the emergence of new cases of the coronavirus. The lockdown in the city of two million was short-lived — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was confident the outbreak was contained and the three people who contracted COVID-19 were in isolation. At the end of January, Stranger’s Guide reported that Ardern said the country’s borders would likely remain closed to most of the world for the rest of the year. “We either need the confidence that being vaccinated means you don’t pass Covid-19 on to others – and we don’t know that yet – or we need enough of our population to be vaccinated and protected that people can safely re-enter New Zealand,” she said. (NZ Herald)


More than four years after the Ebola epidemic ended, the deadly virus has resurfaced in Guinea, while the country is in the midst of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ebola surfaced in Guinea in 2013 and it took far longer to confirm cases as samples had to be sent to Senegal and France for analysis. Today, the tests can be processed on site. Much like contact tracing with the new coronavirus, with Ebola it’s crucial to identify the chain of — although Ebola is far more deadly. The latest outbreak has resulted in the deaths of five out of the nine identified cases so far. (The Africa Report)


Experts are trying to ascertain why there has been such a dramatic fall in cases of COVID-19 in India, positing that those who have caught the virus and built up natural resistance could be contributing to herd immunity in the country. They also say mandatory mask wearing has made an impact. Infections started to go down considerably in September. India is reporting around 11,000 new cases per day — contrast that to nearly 100,000 cases per day at the virus’s peak when experts raised concerns that the pandemic could sink the country’s fragile healthcare system. (Al Jazeera)


Evangelical missionaries in the Amazon are stoking fear and skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine among indigenous communities. Brazil has more than 800,000 indigenous people whose communal way of life have made them a priority for the country’s vaccination program. But tribal leaders say missionaries or evangelical pastors are preaching against the vaccine. One leader said a missionary told one indigenous group they would turn into alligators if they took it. Others blame Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters for stoking skepticism. In December we reported that Bolsonaro had been branded “homicidally negligent” for his failure to prepare his country for the second wave of coronavirus infections. (Genetic Literacy Project)


The Swiss government acknowledges it’s a risk, but insists that opening up after months of coronavirus restrictions is “acceptable” if everyone follows the rules. Shops, museums and sports facilities will reopen in Switzerland at the beginning of March; outside gatherings will be restricted to 15 (up from five people), and libraries and the outside areas of zoos will reopen to the public following a six-week lockdown. Restaurants, however, will remain closed. It’s part of a several-stage strategy the Swiss government is employing as it rolls out its vaccination program that was delayed because of a shortage of vaccines. (Swiss Info)


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