COVID-19: managing the pandemic in 2021

As the global pandemic stretches into 2021, it is one that has had a markedly different impact for our four research countries. But we are seeing that this could potentially reverse 20 years of progress when it comes to combating existing inequalities. Next week, Young Lives will publish the final round of findings from our Phone Survey calls into COVID-19’s impact on young people in India, Peru, Vietnam and Ethiopia. Before this our Country Directors offer an update on the pandemic’s impact and the long-term response from their respective governments.

The state of COVID-19 in our Research Countries


The country with the second highest number of cases with over 10.8 million, India now has 155,195 associated deaths. But there is a significantly lower total cases per million, 7,814, then other countries with similarly high case totals.


Peru continues to grapple with an extensive COVID-19 pandemic, with over 42,000 deaths, with a death rate of 1.277 per million people, an increase since our last blog in November.


Having maintained a place in the global response as a successful model for how to combat COVID-19, Vietnam has seen an uptick in cases recently, with 543 active cases. But with 35 deaths, its fatalities per million rate still stands at 0.4 and it is ranked 172nd in the world for cases.


Ranking 6th in Africa and 71st in the world, the situation in Ethiopia remains better then many of its peers. There have been 142,994 cases and 2,156 deaths (at a rate of 18 per million).

Managing a global pandemic


India appears to have successfully flattened its curve, with a drop from nearly 100,000 new cases a day in September 2020, to a current rate of between 9-11,000, a fatality down to 1.4% from 3.4% in the middle of June. India has two locally produced vaccines and was the first country to hit the 5 million COVID-19 vaccination mark. Cinema halls have now been allowed to open at full capacity and secondary schools have reopened across the country.

There exists a major concern with the high levels of unemployed that exists in the country, with three-quarters of employment in India being non-regular (either self-employed or casual work).  Sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, trade, hotels and restaurants collectively make up nearly 80% of India’s work force and have been particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic and lockdown.




Vietnam has seen the introduction of new measures following the detection of the UK-variant in a patient returning from the United Kingdom. This has included a stricter quarantine policy and schools ordered to shut one ahead of schedule for the Lunar New Year Festival. This has felt particularly vital as new cases have been registered across 12 cities and provinces, since a pair of new community infections were confirmed on January 28th in the provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh.

Testing capacity has been strengthened and extra health facilities are being reinforced in provinces. Major events and festivities for the New Year have been cancelled, whilst local lockdowns and travel restrictions between provinces have been introduced to limit the spread of the infections.


Whilst ranks 71st in the world and 5th in Africa, it is believed that are high proportion of cases are either being missed through low testing rates (down to roughly 5000 per day), are asymptomatic or aren’t ending in the health care system as people avoid using services unless their symptoms are severe. These factors, along with the significant lag time in Ethiopia’s numbers compared to around the world, increase the fear of a second wave, particularly as the positivity rate has creeped up to over 10 percent.

The Ministry of Health and the Ethiopia Public Health continue to raise awareness of the restrictions in place (notably with protection messages before every single mobile phone call). But fatigue has set in with regards to mask wearing and hand washing, and social distancing not practised in places like markets bus stops and places of worship. Outside of the capital city there is little observation of these practises. Added to this are the relaxation of some of initial relaxations, with an encouragement to go to work whilst taking the necessary precautions. Schools, colleges and universities have gradually begun to resume classes.

Looking ahead

Renu Singh – Country Director, India

‘Even though the country continues to be second-most-affected globally, and ranks 13th among worst-hit nations by active cases, there is global wonderment at how India has managed to dramatically lower the spread of infection and case fatality rates.’

Santiago Cueto – Country Director, Peru


Alula Pankhurst – Country Director, Ethiopia

‘If the early signs that a second wave may be happening continue to increase, there is a serious risk that the country’s already overstretched health system could be overwhelmed.’

Nguyen Thang, Country Director, Vietnam

‘As the world entered 2021 with unprecedented death tolls and growing infections related to the coronavirus pandemic, Vietnam still emerged among one of the very few countries which were able to maintain a very positive scorecard.’

Headline reports from the Third Call of Young Lives at Work’s Phone Call Survey in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam will be published on 23rd February. Young Lives At Work (YLAW) is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. For more on YLAW, please see our webpage or follow us on Twitter @yloxford, LinkedIn or Facebook.


Photo credit: © Young Lives / x. The images throughout our publications are of children living in circumstances and communities similar to the children within our study sample.


All COVID-19 figures are accurate as of x and are sourced from here.