Latin America, COVID-19’s New Epicenter
Updated: Jul 25
BY: Giordano Proulx
Starting in early January, the epicenter for the coronavirus was very well documented. Moving from Wuhan, in China, to Milan, in Italy, to New York, in the United States. However, the new epicenter of the virus is significantly less publicized than these three places, though many will state it is of equal importance, Latin America. As a matter of fact, COVID-19 is now ravaging Central and South America, with Mexico and Brazil being the two hardest hit nations up to this point.
Surprisingly, ever since the virus’ staggering rise in the region, mainstream media coverage of the issue has decreased, rather spreading the good news of reopening industries and people returning to their daily lives.
Though these reports paint a particularly positive picture of the days to come, Latin America has over 2 million positive cases, with Brazil alone accounting for 900 000 cases and 45 000 deaths, trailing only the United States in both categories. In addition, according to research conducted by the University of Washington, Brazil alone could account for 125 000 deaths by August, with that number being predicted as high as 250 000 dead, rendering it one of the most at-risk countries at the moment. With over 35 000 new cases being reported daily, the situation is dire, not showing the slightest sign of improvement, at the least for the time being. Additionally, according to multiple sources, like Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)'s director of the Andes, she doubts the legitimacy of these numbers, suspecting that they may in fact be much higher. In addition, she also is skeptic about the data due to President Jair Bolsonaro’s lack of transparency with the data, as well as the lack of widespread testing within the nation. A recent study by the University of Sao Paolo also indicates that the real number of infections may be as much as 15 times the official number of cases. Hence, though the data indicates otherwise, Brazil’s citizens are still encouraged by Bolsonaro to go out and work, as he continuously downplays the dangers of the coronavirus, equating it to the flu. Brazil’s President has also demanded that the economy keeps running, as the costs of COVID-19 are outweighed by the economic benefit according to him. Subsequently, much of Brazil’s lower income citizens have gone to work, not out of will, but out of sheer necessity, to support their livelihoods and their families in these times of need. Though his nation is currently a part of the new epicenter of the pandemic, Bolsonaro continues to attend rallies with his supporters.
However, Brazil is far from being the only country ravaged by COVID-19. In fact, Mexico is also having trouble facing the pandemic, carrying out a mere 3 tests per 1 000 people, in comparison to the United States’ 70 tests per 1 000 people now having accumulated over 160 000 confirmed cases and 19 000 deaths. In contrast to many other regions, the virus is having devastating consequences on healthcare workers, as nearly 24% of all cases affect doctors, nurses and health technicians in the country. Such high numbers come at a bad time as Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, announced the reopening of certain organizations like churches and religious events, with many fearing that the worst is to come. Meanwhile, Mexico’s economic output has also been stopped short as two foreign workers died from COVID-19 in Canada, halting the departure of as many as 5 000 foreign workers, seeking to make their way to Canada.
Though Mexico and Brazil are the two main nations affected by the pandemic, the region as a whole is having difficulty coping with the virus. As a matter of fact, of the 10 countries with the most cases, 3 are located in Latin America, with the situation in Peru being described as a “war” by Pilar Mazzetti, the leader of Peru’s government response to the pandemic. Other notable countries struggling to contain COVID-19 are Chile, with over 225 000 cases, Colombia with 52 000 cases, and Ecuador with 49 000.
With the coronavirus now hitting regions with higher rates of poverty, smaller health care systems and weaker governments, there is no doubt that the pandemic will have profound effects on the people of Latin America. Consequently, it is difficult to envision how will the countries of Africa fare against COVID-19, as infectious diseases like Ebola, malaria and even HIV/AIDS have ravaged the continent for years, let alone decades. Though the countries with the highest economic outputs have such a disease mostly in their rear-view mirror, what guarantee do they have that there will not be a second or third wave if they do not intervene and provide aid to those most vulnerable?
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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