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The Coronavirus Diaries: Will We Continue Listening?

Wednesday July 21

Lyn van Rooyen, from South Africa, asks whether the world will learn the lessons of the pandemic.


'Would you please write something for our Coronavirus Diaries?'

I received this message in the same week in which South Africa is burning. Images of mayhem, destruction, and looting overwhelm my social media platforms and overwhelm me.

This is the same week in which I attended a Zoom memorial for a dear friend. A friend who died from Covid-19 complications. A friend with HIV and other comorbidities who was not yet able to access a vaccine. A friend who died more than 400km from her family and friends because ICU facilities closer to home were overwhelmed.

This is the same week that I read statistics that more than a billion people, or 26.5% of the world population, has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. That 3.69 billion doses have been administered globally. But that only 1.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

The same week in which we read reports from UNAIDS of a reduction in HIV testing and disruption of medicine supplies change due to the Covid-19 epidemic

How do you respond to such a request in such a week?

It is so easy to become discouraged and despondent.

However, there is also another side.

Despite a very slow start, vaccines are reaching South Africa, and the percentage of those who are vaccinated is slowly creeping up.

Amid South Africa’s chaos, a wave of response started, crossing social, economic, race, language, gender, and religious borders. Citizens came together to protect each other, clean, care for those who needed it, and start rebuilding.

Phrases like 'vaccine inequality' and even 'vaccine apartheid' became part of the international narrative. That much-heard platitude that we are all equal was exposed, but we also learned that 'none of us is safe until all of us are safe'.

The world and South Africa began to take note of the effect inequality has on all of us.

This even seems to have spilt over into the terrain of climate change, where we seem to be developing a greater understanding of the impact those who live in more prosperous countries have on the lives and lifestyles of those living in poorer countries.

We have also heard much in the Covid-19 response that could help the HIV response. We have learned that large amounts of money were available for the Covid response and that this jump-started vaccine research, that the more diverse the funders, the higher the buy-in; that collaboration is essential and that it is possible to conduct trials in parallel, producing rapid results. We heard about the double-edged sword of advance purchasing agreements that lead to early manufacturing, but also increased the divide between rich and poor countries. (You can read more about these points here.) We have learned that the world can address a challenging disease if they have the will to do so.

As the flames in South Africa die down and the economy starts the slow road to 'normality', as COVAX and other international instruments start the slow road to distributing vaccines for all, the question is: Will we continue hearing?

Will we continue listening to the voices that we started hearing during the pandemic and the unrest? Will we continue working and dreaming for a world that is more equal, more fair, more just?

I pray that it is so.


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The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Zimbabwe: Untold Sufferings
A Deep and Inconsolable Loss: Tribute to Phumzile Mabizela
Malawi: This Was Very Real
Sri Lanka: Daily Numbers are Shocking
Jerusalem: Virtual Prisoners
Bangladesh: We Will Survive by the Grace of God
Nepal: Exhausting and Often Heartbreaking
Malawi: God Has Been Faithful to Us
France: Thankful For What I Have
India: Love Your Neighbours
A Nigerian in Scotland: Alone But Not Lonely
Taiwan: When We Work Together, We Achieve the Best Results
Hungary: We Mourn Each Loss
Zambia: Preparing for the Vaccine, and a Third Wave
World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'