As the U.S. starts a return to normal, some countries have their worst outbreaks yet.

By Shashank Bengali

The authorities in Malaysia have barred people from venturing more than about six miles from home. Covid-19 patients are spilling into the hallways of overcrowded hospitals in Argentina. In Nepal, 40 percent of coronavirus tests are positive, suggesting that the virus is racing through the population.

All three nations are experiencing their worst coronavirus outbreaks since the start of the pandemic, joining countries across Asia and South America where infections have surged to record levels — a stark counterpoint to the optimism felt in the United States as summer dawns.

Deep into the second year of the pandemic, the emergence of coronavirus variants and the global gaps in access to vaccines have plunged parts of the world back into the anxious stages of Covid-19. Argentina, Malaysia South Africa and others have reimposed lockdowns. Thailand and Taiwan, which kept the virus in check for much of 2020, have closed schools and nightspots in the face of new waves.

Scores are dying daily in Paraguay and Uruguay, which now have the highest reported fatality rates per person in the world, according to a New York Times database. India’s catastrophic second wave has killed more than 3,000 people every day for the past month, according to official statistics, and experts believe the true toll is far greater.

The reasons for the surges vary across countries, but together they reflect “the challenge of maintaining vigilance against a highly transmissible, airborne virus for long periods of time, balanced against economic and social considerations,” said Claire Standley, an assistant research professor at the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.

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