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Report: COVID-19 Pandemic Has Dealt a Major Blow in Efforts to Alleviate Global Poverty

Some informal traders in Harare say, July 27, 2020, poverty forces them continue to defy authorities’ plea to stay home or observe social distance.(Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

A new report says the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed progress in alleviating global poverty and global health progress.

The annual Goalkeepers Report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic venture created by the billionaire Microsoft founder and his wife, found that almost 37 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty since the start of the pandemic, with the rate rising as much as 7% in just a few months.

Meanwhile, the percentage of children receiving regular vaccinations for diseases such as measles and diphtheria have fallen from a record high of more than 80% last year to 70% in 2020, levels the report says have not been seen since the 1990s.

“We’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks,” said the report, which tracks progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Bill Gates acknowledged the setback caused by COVID-19 during an interview with The New York Times, but he expressed optimism that the world will recover the lost ground “in two or three years,” as the pipelines of money from tourism, remittances from relatives working abroad, and World Bank loans begin flowing again as soon as the whole world is vaccinated, which he predicted would occur by 2022.

As the number of total COVID-19 cases steadily approaches the 30 million mark, including more than 928,000 deaths, several nations experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 outbreaks are reimposing strict lockdowns on their citizens.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that a three-week nationwide lockdown will take effect on Friday, the eve of the Jewish New Year. Under the lockdown, all schools, restaurants, shopping malls and hotels will be shut down. Israelis must stay within 500 meters of their houses and are limited to gatherings of just 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors.

“I know that these steps come at a difficult price for all of us. This is not the holiday we are used to,” Netanyahu said during his televised speech.

Israel imposed a strict lockdown in March and April during the early days of the pandemic, which brought the number of daily new cases to low double digits. But the numbers began rising as the nation gradually reopened, with health officials reporting more than 4,000 new cases last week -- a situation Netanyahu called “a red flag.”

Meanwhile, authorities in the French cities of Bordeaux and Marseille announced their own strict new measures to limit public gatherings as they deal with a surge of new coronavirus cases. Residents in both cities are limited to gatherings of just 10 people in public, while imposing restrictions on the public consumption of alcohol.