A SURGING coronavirus is ravaging parts of Latin America, setting records for cases and deaths over the weekend in some countries. Two largest nations — Mexico and Brazil — reported record numbers of infections and deaths almost daily last week.
“In a sense, South America has become a new epicenter for the disease,” WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said at a news briefing.
Brazil registered 965 coronavirus deaths on Saturday, taking the total number of fatalities to 22,013, the health ministry said. The country now has 347,398 confirmed cases, according to the ministry, up 16,508 from Friday, when it surpassed Russia to become the world’s virus hotspot behind the United States.
The actual number of cases and deaths is believed to be higher than the government figures as the testing capacity of Latin America’s largest country still lags.
The virus “does not forgive,” Uber driver Bruno Almeida de Mello said at the burial of his grandmother Vandelma Rosa, 66, in Rio de Janeiro.
“It does not choose race or if you are rich or poor, black or white. It’s a cruel disease.”
He said his grandmother’s death certificate reads “suspected of COVID-19,” but the hospital didn’t have the tests necessary to confirm it. That means her death was not counted in the official toll.
Experts said the surging deaths across Latin America showed the limits of government action in a region where millions have informal jobs and many police forces are weak or corrupt and unable to enforce restrictions.
Infections also rose and intensive care units were swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador, countries lauded for imposing early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines.
Even in countries where cases are rising, many governments say they need to focus on jobs that are vanishing as quickly as the virus spreads.
Mexican health authorities registered 3,329 new cases in the country and 190 new deaths on Saturday, bringing the total number to 65,856 cases and 7,179 deaths. However, the health department acknowledges that the real number is probably several times higher because of Mexico’s abysmally low testing rate.
Colombia’s health ministry reported its biggest daily increases on Friday, with 801 new confirmed infections and 30 deaths. Nearly 20,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus in the country.
In Chile, more than 90 percent of intensive care beds were full last week in the capital, Santiago.
Ecuador’s government instituted a 2pm to 5am curfew and other measures in March, but cases have swamped medical and mortuary services in the city of Guayaquil and now in the capital, Quito. Hundreds of people can be seen violating the curfew in Ecuador, many selling goods on the streets to earn enough to buy food.
News outlets showed images of patients slumped in wheelchairs receiving oxygen in Peru, where there are only 2.5 intensive care beds per 100,000 people, one quarter of the global standard. The country had almost 109,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,100 dead as of Thursday.