Race against the virus

Uruguay's inoculation drive races against the spread of the BrazilianCOVID-19 variant.

Uruguay has experienced a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in the last few weeks after being hailed by the international community as a role model in the combat against the virus.

Overall, the country has been severely hit by the second wave of the pandemic, registering 90% of its 1,300 deaths since January 2021. In the second week of April, Uruguay registered 1,370 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in what was, by far, the highest infection rate in the world. No other country surpassed 1,000 infections per 100,000 inhabitants during the same period.

The President of the Colegio Médico del Uruguay told us, “After more than a year of exemplary work from government authorities and a significant collective responsibility among Uruguayans, it was expected to see an increase in cases at some point, it was almost inevitable. The positive side was that the Uruguayan government gained time and duplicated its ICU beds and improved the local health system. Thus, despite the local rise in cases, the Uruguayan health system has not collapsed and is efficiently combatting this second wave.”

One of the main reasons behind the dramatic increase in the infections rate is the spread of the more contagious Brazilian variant which has caused a mounting number of intensive care unit hospitalisation.

The President continued, “The rise in cases is related to the porous land borders with Argentina and Brazil, the situation of which is critical at the moment. This, coupled with a relatively low contagion rate among Uruguayans makes the local population more vulnerable at this stage.”

“The rise in cases is related to the porous land borders with Argentina and Brazil, the situation of which is critical at the moment.”

President of the Colegio Médico del Uruguay

Unlike its neighbour Argentina, Uruguay has never imposed a strict lockdown. Despite the alarming rise in infections, President Luis Lacalle Pou continues to reject any such measures and calls on citizens to continue being responsible and sensible. A senior health official in the Uruguayan government disagrees with this approach, “Personally, I think it would be logical for the government to impose a 2 or 3 week lockdown in order to control local transmission. Vaccination roll-out has been impressively efficient in Uruguay and in 14 to 21 days, we could vaccinate a large part of the population.”

“Personally, I think it would be logical for the government to impose a 2 or 3 week lockdown in order to control local transmission.”

Senior health official, Uruguay

To date, more than one million, 30% of the population, have already received at least the first dose of the vaccine. The country has mostly used Chinese CoronaVac and American Pfizer jabs. The health official commented, “We are racing against time to stop the spread of the Brazilian variant. We are already seeing the benefits of the vaccine with less infections in the vaccinated group but it will be another three weeks before we see a real impact on the number of hospitalisations.”

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