Countries around the world have been forced into a second lockdown due to what has been called the plague of the 21st century. Others know it as Covid-19.
It has been almost a year since the first cases of the coronavirus began to surface in China. Today, more than 58 million cases have been confirmed around the world, with around 1.35 million deaths. As the winter cold creeps in, more and more infections are being reported daily.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, more cases have been recorded globally over the past four weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic at the beginning of this year.
79-year-old Cairo retiree Ahmed Mohamed spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly via video call describing his nine-day nightmare after he tested positive for Covid-19.
“I couldn’t eat, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do anything at all. You are in a constant state of fatigue,” Mohamed said. “The worst part is how it affects you mentally because you are all alone in a room and nurses only come in to prick you with needles from time to time,” he added, rolling up his sleeves to show the marks of injections.
Since then Mohamed has recovered and has now been sent back home. But others have not been as fortunate as the virus takes its toll and the number of deaths rises.
This pandemic is already causing a shortage of medical staff, healthcare workers and care-givers, along with other essential workers.
Around the world hundreds of thousands of health workers have contracted the virus.
34-year-old Tripoli-based Basma Ali was one health worker who tested positive after taking care of patients infected with the virus.
“There came the point when I would get changed in the garage because it was too much of a risk to go in to my family home after being at the hospital for my shift,” Ali said. “There aren’t many options: you go into the job knowing the risks and the sacrifices that you have to make,” she added.
According to Johns Hopkins University researchers in the US, the sharpest rise in cases has been seen in North America. In the US, there have been 12 million cases and over 250,000 deaths, one of the highest numbers recorded.
Over 60 per cent of all new cases over the past week have been recorded in Iran. Countries like Jordan and Morocco are right behind Iran, however, as their number of coronavirus cases is continuing to rise.
In Lebanon, five members of the same family all passed away after contracting the virus in the space of six weeks, leaving their hometown of Bakhaoun in shock. The Al-Samad family are now mourning three of their sons, a grandson, and a daughter-in-law.
In the Middle East region, more than 3.6 million people have fallen ill with the virus, and it has caused the deaths of over 76,000 people in the past nine months.
Although most countries within the region have not implemented strict lockdowns, precautionary measures have been taken, affecting the day-to-day lives of ordinary citizens.
For months, news of a vaccine being put together has been a main topic of discussion worldwide. In the race to find a coronavirus jab, Oxford University researchers in the UK have shown efficient results after results announced by drug companies Moderna and Pfizer.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine showed protection against the virus rising from 70 to 90 per cent in its phase three trials in the UK and Brazil.
Although the Pfizer and Moderna jabs show five per cent more protection, the Oxford vaccine is cheaper and easier to store, thus making it easier to distribute. AstraZeneca plans to sell the jab for $3 to $4 per shot, while the other two companies are pricing theirs at $20 and $25.
While this has been exciting news for some people, others are against the idea of a vaccine as they are sceptical about its efficiency.
“My family and I have decided not to take the vaccine until we’ve seen what it can actually do in the long run. I won’t be injecting something into my children until I am sure it is safe,” said London-based Millie Ashley.
The mother-of-two is among many others who have voiced their opinions on social media.
For most, however, the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly