Global Protests Complicate COVID Mitigation Efforts

Civil unrest has complicated South Africa and Cuba’s uneven battles against the latest wave of COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant. 

In South Africa, the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma sparked massive protests in his home province— also home to economic capital Johannesburg and political capital Pretoria. 

The protests have halted state-administered vaccinations in this area, which has a combined population of over 23 million people— more than a third of the total country. 

With only 2.5% of the country fully vaccinated and cases spiking to record levels over the past month, the delays are a matter of life and death. Furthermore, local outlets report over 90 pharmacies and vaccination centers have been looted or destroyed in the upheaval. 

After a series of distribution-halting vaccine complications, South Africa was already severely behind schedule. And these most recent delays may cripple the country’s efforts for the foreseeable future. Government officials have warned the destruction caused by the protests may take years to rebuild.  

In Cuba, the pandemic has had drastic consequences for the country’s public health and economy, moving many to object to the government regime. 

Cuba has also declined to accept WHO-funded vaccine aid, instead developing its own vaccine, Abdala, which it started administering two months before its emergency approval. 

A second vaccine is expecting approval in the coming days, but less than 20% of Cubans are fully vaccinated, and the country’s public healthcare system is suffering from a shortage of syringes, further hindering vaccine administration. 

Furthermore, protests have caused a massive spike in cases across the country. Throughout the pandemic, the Caribbean island has maintained relatively low case rates. But over the past two weeks the rate has shot up by 536% to over 6,000 new cases per day.