The region as a whole is now reporting more daily cases than the United States. And politics, rather than policy, seem to have informed the very different approaches that various South American countries have taken — with ideology appearing to have trumped best medical practices in some cases.
Yet despite the different approaches by regional and national authorities, Latin America as a region now faces a harsh, common reality: the pandemic seems to be unstoppable, regardless of efforts made.
Last week the World Health Organization said South America had become the new Covid-19 epicenter.
Tale of two countries
This week, Brazil moved ahead of Russia to become the country with the second-highest number of infections in the world, after the United States.
But despite the virus’s massive spread in Brazil, differences between Bolsonaro and state governors on how to handle the crisis have grown greater. He has frequently criticized governors for attempting to enforce lock down and social-distancing measures, insisting that the economy comes first.
The Brazilian opposition says enough is enough. Alessandro Molon, a Brazilian lawmaker and member of the Brazilian Socialist Party, told CNN it’s time to impeach President Bolsonaro. “This is a time when our country should be united, fighting together against this disease. We’ve unfortunately discovered that the virus main ally and best friend is the president,” Molon said.
Neighboring Peru, which reacted swiftly and strictly to contain the virus, has also seen a dramatic rise in cases despite its efforts. Though it mandated stay-at-home orders, curfews and border closings, health experts say income inequality forced the poor to venture outside their homes for work, food and even banking transactions, anyway.
Nowhere in Peru is this more evident than in La Victoria, a district in capital city Lima with the highest incidence of Covid-19 cases in the entire nation. On Tuesday, a viral social media video showed Mayor Georgia Forsyth desperately asking people in a crowded street to go home.
One of the greatest problems in Peru is the informal economy, Forsyth says. The Gamarra market in La Victoria, for example, is the largest textile center in Latin America and most workers there are day laborers. About 70% percent of people in Peru are thought to work in the informal sector. “This is not the moment to go to our beautiful, but battered district because it is the most infected one in all of Peru. This poses great risks and that’s why I was asking people not to come,” Mayor Forsyth said.
Inequality is a factor — but not the only one
Poor Latin Americans are much less likely to have access to resources like sanitation, access to running water, and vaccination, writes Linnea Sandin, Associate Director and Associate Fellow, of the CSIS Americas Program and the report’s author. “They are also more likely to live in overcrowded neighborhoods or lack running water, meaning that self-isolation and frequent hand washing, and disinfecting are extremely difficult.”
María Dolores Pérez, the Pan-American Health Organization representative in Costa Rica, told CNN that the country’s government health system, which covers nearly 95 percent of the population, allowed the health authorities to launch a coordinated effort against the spread of the virus.
“The strength of Costa Rica’s health system and its universal coverage that the country enjoys, as well as the strength of its epidemiology vigilance system have been crucial factors. Another key factor has been the commitment of Costa Ricans to fight the virus because they trust their healthcare system and believe in it. That’s why they have adhered to the government’s guidelines,” Pérez said.
Following the guidelines has recently allowed Costa Rica to ease its economy back into gear. The Costa Rican Health Ministry recently approved a gradual reopening hotels, movie theaters and beaches. Some establishments may remain open as late as 10pm on weeknights.
And even informal workers have been able to return to work — though not without precautions. Walter Steller, who sells lottery tickets in downtown San José, Costa Rica’s capital, is back on the job for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Like most people around the downtown area, he’s wearing a mask.
“If people don’t heed the warnings, the problem will become serious again,” Steller told CNN. “Some people think this is over, but they have to realize this doesn’t end.”
Read more from source here…