COVID update

The differing outlook and attitude towards COVID-19 across Latin America.

Latin America has been one of the regions hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic but each country has fared differently thus far, a quick recap is long overdue:

Brazil

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro has remained one of the few world leaders to be openly dismissive of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the country being one of the worst affected globally.

Brazil is approaching what some are calling a third wave, but in truth the second wave never really finished. A former health official and current front-line medic was exhausted, “We are moving towards another rapid increase in infections, with no end in sight. There is no centralised policy to contain the virus and people do not comply with prevention protocols such as social distancing or even the use of masks.”

The data reinforces their view, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Health the rate of infections and deaths are still climbing with the seven-day moving average daily COVID-19 deaths just below 2,000, compared to 1,000 at the peak of the first wave in June 2020, and the seven day average daily infections at 70,000, again significantly higher than last year.

Despite hesitancy from the government, Brazil’s vaccination programme is accelerating with 33% of the population having received one dose and 12% fully vaccinated.

Mexico

The spread of contagion and the high level of mortality has catapulted Mexico into the top 5 countries worldwide for deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants (including excess mortality associated with COVID-19).

Until recently, the number of daily infections had been in decline but that trend has started to reverse over recent days and weeks as the former social security official confirmed, “There has been an increase in the number of cases recently. This is because people are over-confident about the vaccine and the government has given the green light to reopen. The statistics barely register the increase because there is a delay in government reporting.”

According to the most recent report from the Mexican Ministry of Health, there has been a total of 2.5 million confirmed infections with 2.0 million recovered, 30,000 active and just over 230,000 deaths. The rates of infections and deaths had fallen but are starting to climb again, the seven-day moving average daily COVID-19 deaths is now above 200 and average daily infections are approaching 2,000.

In terms of vaccinations, Mexico has administered the first dose to 23% of the population with 15% of the population being fully vaccinated. A long way to go.

Colombia

A third peak of COVID-19 infections began in Colombia at the beginning of April and has persisted to become the largest, longest and most lethal wave of infections the country has experienced. The statistics make for grim reading, according to the most recent report from the National Institute of Health (“INS”) the rate of infections and deaths are still climbing with the 7 day average daily cases above 30,000 and deaths above 600 – the worst the country has recorded throughout the pandemic.

A public health expert in Bogota hypothesised, “We are attributing the scale of this wave to: the false sense of security produced by the start of the vaccination process, the early easing of restrictions to promote economic recovery, the large-scale mass protests, the arrival of more virulent variants and the low level of antibodies in the general population.”
Colombia’s vaccination programme got off to a slow start but has accelerated since the beginning of June. Today, 22% of the total population has received one dose and 12% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Chile

Chile, a country of 19 million people, last month held its Constitutional Convention elections, the most politically significant elections for 30 years, where 155 people were elected to write a new Constitution. This is the culmination of violent protests, demonstrations and social unrest that started in October 2019 but stopped with the arrival of the pandemic with the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in March 2020.
According to the Chilean Ministry of Health the current 7-day daily average new infections is falling below 4,000, but the number of deaths are not following with the 7-day daily average deaths increasing to 150.

The persistently high rate of infection and deaths have experts concerned as Chile has one of the highest vaccination rates in Latin America with over 65% of the total population having one dose and 54% of the population fully vaccinated.

It remains unclear why infections and deaths are not starting to fall yet, although some are concerned about the efficacy of the CoronaVac vaccine which accounts for nearly 80% of the doses administered. Public health officials have also complained about the lack of compliance with social restrictions following the start of the country’s vaccination programme.

Peru

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the weakness of Peru’s health infrastructure: there is just 2.9 ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds per 100,000 inhabitants and just 276 respirators in a country of 33 million people. An epidemiologist in Peru does not think Castillo, or any politician, will be of much help, “We must bear in mind that these are politicians in the midst of a crisis, this implies not just a health crisis but a knowledge crisis, it is hard for them to come forward with concrete plans.”

A second epidemiologist in Peru advocated for radical reform, “Coronavirus has shown, without anaesthesia, that the social and health situation of the country needs urgent attention. This cannot be fixed with patches, a new approach is necessary, a new strategy, a new social contract that puts human beings and their well-being at the centre of public policy.”

Peru has also been hit hard by COVID-19, the Peruvian Ministry of Health (Minsa) has confirmed that nearly 2 million people have been infected with the virus and there have been a total of 187,000 deaths. Recent weeks have shown an erratic decline in daily infections to below 4,000 with deaths falling to below 400.

Peru’s vaccination programme is lagging its peers with just 13% of the total population having one dose and 9% of the population fully vaccinated.

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