How have people across countries, cultures, faiths, economic status and age groups responded to the coronavirus pandemic? To begin to answer that question, explore these photos and stories drawn from the new two-part FRONTLINE documentary The Virus That Shook the World, streaming now, and Different Ships, Same Storm, an international project spotlighting youth photography and voices.
Tel Aviv, Israel
“I didn’t ‘meet’ any cases of coronavirus in my private life, and because we can go outside again, the only reminder of that is the masks that we have to put on all the time.”
Israel is one of three countries to have fully vaccinated more than half of its population, according to Johns Hopkins. That largely excludes Palestinians, of whom Israel has said it will vaccinate about 130,000 of 5 million — mostly workers in Israeli areas, per the BBC. Using doses from international aid groups, about 2% of Palestinians are fully vaccinated, per Reuters.
Brazil — whose president played down vaccine efficacy and was slow to secure doses, critics say — leads the world in the daily average of new deaths reported: one in five each day. The country has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll, trailing only the U.S. As of April, less than 5% of the population has been fully vaccinated, per Johns Hopkins.
Cherokee Nation, USA
“Indigenous women across this nation and beyond have been going missing. … COVID is not the only pandemic in this country.”
COVID-19 has obscured some pre-existing problems. Homicide was the third-leading cause of death among Native American women and girls younger than 20 — and that was before the arrival of a virus that kills Native Americans at roughly twice the rate of white Americans. To date, the Indian Health Service has vaccinated 30% of the 2.5 million people it serves.
Critics say the UK government was slow to contain the virus, acting against scientific advice. The country now has the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe and ranks fifth globally. Nearly two-thirds of the 127,000 deaths came after September, when the so-called UK variant was first detected. More than 16% of the population is fully vaccinated, per Johns Hopkins.
Coventry, United Kingdom
“I went from having a conversation with a lovely, lovely individual, and within two hours, she’d been transferred to the intensive care unit. That was my first patient who died.”
Mexico acknowledged in March that its COVID-19 death toll was 60% higher than previously reported — likely due to a lack of testing and many dying at home. That puts the country behind only the U.S. and Brazil in total deaths, despite a significantly smaller population — of which less than 4% has been fully vaccinated, per Johns Hopkins.
“It’s certainly not the apocalypse, but it looks like it. It’s certainly not the end, but it looks like it.”
South Africa has the highest infection rate in Africa and is 16th globally in total COVID-related deaths. Only 0.5% of the population has been fully vaccinated, with the rollout halted twice: once when the AstraZeneca vaccine proved ineffective against a local variant and again when rare blood clots were reported around the Johnson & Johnson shots.
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
“In lockdown, I have been improving my braiding skills by braiding everyone in the house, since I have the time.”
Los Angeles, USA
“Chaos ensues as a peaceful protest turns violent, escalating the tension between the police force and the general population.”
Third in population size, the United States has the world’s highest COVID-19 death count, nearing 575,000, per Johns Hopkins. That enormous loss overlapped with a bitterly divided election, an attack on the U.S. Capitol, and a national reckoning with police shootings and racism. Nearly 25% of Americans are fully vaccinated to date.
“This is the first time that I am imprisoned in my own home. These metal frames that were once supposed to instill a sense of security are now viewed as prison bars.”
As of April, Guyana has reported 274 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins. But cases are spiking, with less than 1% of the population of 780,000 fully vaccinated. Guyana was the first country in the Caribbean to receive no-cost doses through COVAX, a global effort to improve vaccine access in 92 countries.
“People working full-time are getting salaries, even if they don’t go to the office. Where do we go? Whose door do we knock on?”
India tops the world in new infections — one in every three reported daily, per Reuters. The country imposed lockdowns at the pandemic’s start but didn’t prepare for a second wave that began in February, critics say; they also say deaths have been undercounted. Less than 2% of the 1.2 billion population has been vaccinated, despite India leading global vaccine manufacturing.