In recent weeks, the daily death tolls in hard-hit European countries have significantly declined. But concurrent with that development has been a sharp, and deadly, rise in coronavirus cases across Latin America. The World Health Organization has declared the continent the pandemic’s latest epicenter.
In one grim milestone, Brazil’s official death toll surpassed that of Spain, Brazil’s health ministry reported Friday. With at least 27,878 deaths related to covid-19, Brazil just on Friday registered 1,124 more deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has nonetheless continued to downplay the virus’s severity.
In March, many Latin American countries — watching the then-epidemic unfold in Asia and Europe — were quick to put in place lockdowns before their own infection and death rates significantly rose. But these shutdowns were particularly punitive for impoverished communities and informal economies. And despite the early efforts, numbers are now rising.
As The Washington Post reported earlier this month, young people have been dying at higher rates in many South American countries, as well as India, compared to other wealthier countries. “Young people are dying at a higher rate because they are coming into contact with the virus many times more, because of their working and living conditions,” Ligia Bahia, a public health professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told The Post. “Doormen are still working. Housekeepers are still working. … Their viral load, their exposure, is greater.”
Now, some Latin American countries are loosening restrictions while trying to maintain a hold on their outbreaks and fragile economies and health-care systems.
On Saturday, Colombia issued some easing of restrictions, but said that the capital, Bogota, as well as two other hard-hit cities, would remain under quarantine. The new rules allow children and those over age 70 to be outside for 30 minutes three times a day; 6- to 17-year-olds will be permitted out for an hour three times a week; and adults under 70 two hours a day, according to Reuters.