Latin America faces a late wave of COVID-19

Eugene Ramirez | June 1, 2020

While Brazil and Mexico have gotten most of the attention during the coronavirus pandemic, newer information coming from the region shows large cities and small towns alike are now reporting a larger number of cases. The Associated Press reports hospital intensive care units are nearing capacity. In late May, hospitals in Santiago, Chile saw more than 90 percent of their intensive care beds occupied. In Lima Peru, it was approximately 80 percent. It all points to what experts say is a late wave in the spread of Covid-19 throughout Latin America, as most of the rest of the world is believed to be on the opposite end of the curve.

Despite social distancing and other measures, the late wave may in part be attributed to poor access to healthcare. For
example, according to the report, there’s a deficit of medical devices like ventilators, and patients are being taken from large cities where hospitals are at capacity, to smaller towns, potentially furthering the spread. Many cities and towns are also concerned about limited access to testing, while others are being potentially set back by government corruption in the procurement of medical devices.

Personal disregard or disobedience may be further aggravating the issue. Some of the actions could perhaps be attributed
to culture, like street vendors who are still peddling their goods and those who continue to go out and buy from them, despite stay-at-home orders and heightened government restrictions.

Beyond the big cities, even sparsely populated areas like the Amazonian region of Colombia are seeing a large
multiplication of positive cases, in some places by a multiple of ten. An Al Jazeera report citing a late-May warning from the Pan American Health Organization paints a grim picture of the rapid spread of Covid-19 across the Amazon, including
Brazil, Colombia and Peru. In many cases, the only way to get to a hospital from the remote villages is by some sort of air rescue. The virus could devastate the indigenous tribes.