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COVID-19 in Latin America: Social Disasters and Government Decisions

The number of cases and deaths from the dangerous pandemic in Latin America is growing steadily. As of April 8, more than 35 thousand people were infected with COVID-19, which is twice as many as a week ago, more than 1.500 patients died, which follows from the data of the ministries of health of the states. What social crises have countries in the region faced? How do Latin American governments respond to new challenges?

A week ago, according to March 30, there were 15.084 patients in Latin America, of whom 352 were fatal as a result of a new type of pneumonia. A week later, the indicators increased on average 2.5 times: more than 35 thousand infected with the virus and more than 1.500 deaths. Now the first coronavirus deaths have been recorded in countries such as El Salvador, where not a single death was registered a week ago.

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The first three countries in terms of the number of cases remain unchanged. Brazil comes the first (14.275 confirmed cases, 719 fatal, 127 recovered), Chile is the second (5.546 infected, 48 died, 1.115 cured), Ecuador is the third (3.995 sick, 222 died, 140 recovered).

Mexico showed a sharp increase in cases during the week, where the number of cases rose sharply from 251 to 2.785 cases, 141 people died, instead of two weeks earlier; Panama – 2,249 cases, instead of 245 a week ago, 59 people died. In Peru this week, the number of people infected with coronavirus has tripled, according to data on April 8 – 2.954 confirmed cases, 107 – with fatal outcome, 1.301 managed to recover.

In the Dominican Republic, the number of infected people increased by more than seven times – to 2,111 people, of whom 108 died and 50 recovered; in Argentina – 1,715 confirmed cases, 63 died and 338 recovered; in Colombia: 1.780 cases, of which 50 were dead and 100 recovered. In Uruguay: 424 people are already sick, 7 of them died (267 managed to recover); in Costa Rica: 483 were infected and 2 deaths. In Honduras, five times more cases of COVID-19 – 312, 22 have died; in Cuba tripled – 457 infected, 12 died.

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The smallest number of people infected with the new type of pneumonia is in Central America. In Venezuela, 166 people are sick, 7 people died. In Guatemala, 87 were infected, and three died; in El Salvador, 93 people are sick (5 of them are fatal); in Nicaragua – only six cases, two people died.

Among South American states, the lowest positions in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus infection are still held by Bolivia and Paraguay. According to official data, on April 8, 210 patients were recorded in Bolivia, of which 15 were fatal, two recovered. In Paraguay, the total number of infected is 119, of which 5 deaths, 15 recovered.

On April 6, disturbing news came from Ecuador. In the large city of the Latin American country of Guayaquil, hospitals and morgues were so overwhelmed by the outbreak of COVID-19 that the dead bodies were left on the streets. Due to crowded hospitals, people were dying in anticipation of medical care. The head of the joint military and police task force, Jorge Wated (Spanish – Jorge Wated Reshuan), created to tackle the health crisis in Ecuador, said that in the coming months, it is estimated that between 2500 and 3500 deaths are expected only in the province of Guayas, in which Guayaquil is located.

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On 8 April, the Ecuador’s ambassador to Russia, Julio César Prado Espinosa, appealed to Russian companies and departments for assistance in the fight against coronavirus with a request to provide support and allocate medicines, masks, and respirators. It is expected that before the end of this week, the Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno (Spanish – Lenín Boltaire Moreno Garcés) will announce new measures to combat the sanitary crisis.

On April 8 in Brussels, the European Commission officially announced its financial support for various regions in the fight against the spread of the pandemic. The final document notes that the EU will allocate 15 billion euros to fight coronavirus, 918 million euros will receive countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to representatives of the World Health Organization, such a difference in the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus in Latin America depends on several variables: the term of quarantine measures, the accessibility of the population to public health systems, the nature of restrictive measures, the availability of medical equipment, and the level of development of medicine in general. The WHO believes that countries such as Bolivia and Paraguay, despite their very low levels of medicine, are able to curb coronavirus infection because these South American states introduced strict quarantine measures earlier than their neighbors in the region. Countries with a fairly high level of health care and access to medical services (Uruguay, Argentina) show a very high rate of cure for dangerous pneumonia.

Since the second half of March, gradually all countries in the region have closed their borders to foreigners in order to limit the spread of coronavirus in Latin America. Today, every state is trying to cope with the spread of a dangerous pandemic within its territory. However, the following doubts remain the main issues on the regional agenda. What methods of combating the COVID-19 virus will state health systems choose, which in most cases are characterized by a shortage of specialists, drugs and medical equipment? How can Latin American countries, some of which are in the midst of an economic crisis, recover from the difficult commercial and economic consequences? Regional governments will have to give balanced answers to these and other challenges through systematic decisions in the coming months.

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