In just the last few days, Poland has smashed its daily Covid death toll. Brazil, mired in disaster largely because of President Jair Bolsonaro's preening negligence, recorded its deadliest day and deadliest month since the start of the pandemic. Peru, afflicted with a variant
first discovered in Brazil, just saw its worst daily death toll.
India on Thursday tallied a record high of 126,000 new cases in a single day. Iraq, Turkey, Cuba, Argentina and Chile are putting up new peaks in Covid-19 infections. Even in the US, where 3 million vaccines are administered every day, a surge of new cases is underway, as younger people fall prey to new variants.
Even countries that are succeeding in driving back the virus will be threatened if Covid-19 keeps raging everywhere else. New mutations could emerge that sidestep the existing vaccines. And full economic recovery will never be possible with half the world's borders closed to commerce and tourism. That's why global health experts have called for available vaccines to be more equitably shared between rich and poor nations.
The pandemic made a mockery of globalization as nations retreated behind their borders. It's hard to imagine a political leader looking after foreign populations before taking care of residents at home. President Joe Biden has made tentative steps and promises to help out needy nations, but that's only once the US has satisfied domestic demand for vaccines.
The global leadership that has been lacking throughout the last year needs to kick in soon, or the pandemic will drag on for many more months, or even years.
'An international embarrassment'
Foreigners are perpetually mystified that despite near-daily mass shootings
, the US never does anything meaningful to curb the sale of guns. Plenty of Americans also wonder why weapons of war -- like fast-firing rifles that can spray many rounds a minute -- are so easily available.
But pointing out that America's gun violence epidemic
is an "international embarrassment," as Biden did Thursday, is likely to backfire. It's rarely a shrewd strategy in American politics to argue that other countries do it better. And calling the US an oddity in its handling of firearms isn't going to convince the gun rights crowd -- it's more likely to reinforce their belief that the President is trying to crush something quintessentially American.
Speaking at an event sandwiched between mass shootings in South Carolina
and Texas, Biden unveiled an exceedingly modest set of executive measures to stem gun violence — including a crackdown on homemade "ghost guns." His moves were effectively an admission of defeat, since there's no chance of getting the Senate to act in response to the latest spate of shootings.
Biden says his efforts don't infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Republican insist that they do. This too may be tough for foreigners to understand.
'It seems like we've always got a long way to go'
Speaking in the Rose Garden on Thursday, Biden glumly acknowledged the struggle to convince Washington to act on gun control. "We've got a long way to go," he said, "it seems like we've always got a long way to go."