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Installment 29

30 April 2021

Pollen's Vanga is part of a genus of big vangas with laterally broad but flattened bills. All endemic of course. This one was in Ranomafana National Park.

The South African variant of covid has made it to Madagascar, and fueled the virus's largest wave to date. The official numbers of cases and deaths have doubled within a few weeks. True numbers may be 1-2 orders of magnitude higher. Some of the dynamics that seemed earlier to soften the impact of the virus, such as a young, healthy, outdoor-living population, seem less protective against this new variant.

We hear stories of desperation from the capital, where families scramble to find oxygen or ventilators for their loved ones. Thankfully, my town is still calm, and hospitals aren't yet overwhelmed. Mask wearing is at an all time high, perhaps inspired by police gangs that drive around and pick up the maskless. Schools are closed and commercial flights are cancelled, presumably to try to keep out even more virulent variants such as the once now ravaging India.

A few batches of vaccine may be headed our way in May, but these will be reserved for essential personnel. A true solution, if it exists at all, seems very far in the future. Folks in the US have some justifiable optimism, but here in Madagascar, things have never looked darker than they do right now.

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