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From the file

The Arms Race | We need to get the world vaccinated as fast as possible. We’re in an arms race: vaccines vs variants.

Slow Views • Photo Essay

The bigger, worse picture

Thursday 8 July 2021

Covid-19 is ravaging the world. Still. This photo essay shows the continuing suffering in countries that haven’t been reached by the vaccine – and even those that have


As the nation prepares to lift most Covid restrictions on 19 July, we have become introspective and parochial. We are legitimately anxious about the spike in infections caused by the Delta variant. 

Less admirably, there is much bickering about masks (keep wearing them, by the way), quarantine arrangements, testing requirements, and the new rules governing schools.

Fifteen months since the first national lockdown was imposed, our gaze is turned firmly inward – but that is a dangerous game. As James Harding reports in this week’s Slow Newscast on the failure of the G7, and our Slow View contributors launching  #TheArmsRace campaign for global vaccination have written, Covid is indifferent to borders.

This special photo essay acts as a reminder of the bigger picture: assembling shocking images from around the world that chronicle the terrible price paid daily in poorer nations while vaccine roll-out has proceeded in the West. 

Some of the photographs date from earlier in the year; most are more recent. What they amount to, in their depiction of grief-stricken faces, shrouds, coffins and human despair in its purest form, is a global SOS – a call for help to which the richer nations of the world must respond, if we are to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in the coming months.

And don’t forget: basic decency aligns with self-interest in this case. The killing fields of Covid are a horrific playground for the virus, which is mutating fast into new variants, some of which may combine the increased transmissibility of Delta with the vaccine resistance of Beta (South Africa). Such mutations – most of which have not yet been genomically sequenced – will make their way to these shores soon enough.

In this race to prevent unconscionable human suffering and rampant viral evolution, there is no “them” and “us”. There is only “us”. 

Please look at these images – and then do whatever you can to help this campaign (you can find out how here).

Workers carry the body of a Covid-19 patient for his last rites at a crematorium in New Delhi, India.
Medical staff attend to Covid patients in the emergency ward of a hospital in New Delhi.
A priest performs the last rites amid burning funeral pyres in New Delhi, India.
Sleeping next to empty oxygen cylinders, waiting for them to be refilled, on the southern outskirts of Lima, Peru.
Gravediggers bury the coffin of a Covid victim at a special cemetery in Bogor, Indonesia.
A nurse checks the condition of a patient in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Beirut, Lebanon.
A relative rests by a patient’s bedside inside the emergency ward of a hospital in New Delhi, India.
The mass cremation of Covid victims in New Delhi.
Relatives attend a loved one’s funeral at a graveyard in Comas, on the northern outskirts of Lima, Peru.
A resident is vaccinated against COVID in Anama town, Amazon, Brazil.
Closing the cremation at the Nezahualcoyotl Municipal Cemetery in Mexico.
Gravediggers rest between funerals in Bandung, Indonesia.
Paramedics transfer a Covid patient to an emergency room in Naucalpan, Mexico.
A morgue attendant at a South African funeral company applies a biohazard warning to the body of a Covid victim.
Relatives carry a coffin in the Peruvian city of Huanuco.
People queue to refill their oxygen cylinders in Callao, Peru.
Staff members wheel a patient through a field hospital in Santo Andre, Brazil.
Health workers from the Portuguese charity hospital in Belem, Para State, Brazil, sing and pray for a Covid patient.
A medical worker looks on as a patient receives oxygen in a remote community on the Moju river in Para state, Brazil.
Municipal workers prepare to cremate a body buried in a shallow grave on the banks of the Ganges river.
An aerial view of the Heroes 19 de Julio cemetery in Comas, on the northern outskirts of Lima, taken amid the pandemic.
A gravedigger at a cemetery in Bandung, Indonesia, prepares to bury the coffin of a baby who died of Covid-19.
Relatives mourn as their loved one is buried at a cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A South African retirement home manager explains to guests how the Pfizer vaccine works.
Queuing for the Sinopharm vaccination at a local hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Health workers sit next to the body of a Covid victim at a crematorium in New Delhi, India.
Relatives pray during a funeral in Manaus, Amazon state, Brazil.
Workers prepare to fill oxygen cylinders for use by Covid patients in Jabalpur, India.
A health worker administers a jab during a door-to-door vaccine run in Siaya, Kenya.
Patients on hospital beds inside a temporary ward dedicated to the treatment of possible Covid patients in Pretoria, South Africa.

Photographs by Anindito Mukherjee, Rebecca Conway, Ernesto Benavides, Aditya Aji, Diego Ibarra Sanchez, Imtiyaz Khan, Michael Dantas, Pedro Pardo, Timur Matahari, Alfredo Estrella, Marco Longari, Oscar Rosario, Alexandre Schneider, Tarso Sarraf, Joao Paulo, Jewel Samad, Miguel Schincariol, Michael Spatari, Tafadzwa Ufumeli, Prakash Singh, Uma Shankar Mishra, Brian Ongoro, Bikash Karki, Sajjad Hussain, Phill Magakoe,

Getty Images, AFP, Andolu Agency

Next in this file

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