“We are especially worried about Central and South America, where many countries are witnessing accelerating epidemics,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
The WHO does not believe either Central or South America have reached peak transmission, meaning the number of people getting sick and dying might continue to rise.
Health officials warn countries against reopening their economies too soon, even as nations prepare to reopen or have already done so.
Here’s a look at the outbreaks in three of Latin America’s hardest-hit countries, which account for roughly 60% of the region’s population. And there is a success story as well.
The country has recorded at least 645,771 coronavirus cases and 35,026 deaths.
It recently passed Italy to become the country with the third-highest deaths in the world and will likely surpass the United Kingdom soon.
That means Brazil will have both the second-most cases and deaths in the world, trailing only the United States.
It’s worth noting, however, that Brazil is testing at a far lower rate than the US. That means many cases go unregistered.
In the country’s most populous state of São Paulo, the Health Ministry coordinator says some coronavirus cases have likely been recorded as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, due to the state’s low Covid-19 testing capacity.
A study released this week by the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul says Brazil will record 1 million cases and 50,000 deaths by June 20.
Meanwhile, some of Brazil’s big cities are beginning to reopen. Rio de Janeiro is allowing non-essential businesses like churches, car shops and decoration stores to accept customers once again.
First, Mexico recorded its worst week of the outbreak, both in confirmed cases and deaths.
It recorded more than 1,000 deaths in a single day for the first time. And for three consecutive days, it recorded single-day highs in new cases.
Despite the bleak numbers, and conflicting messages from government leaders, officials have pushed ahead with a phased reopening plan across the country.
Deputy Health Secretary Hugo López Gatell, who leads Mexico’s Covid-19 response, has urged Mexicans to stay home. He has stressed that the country is not out of the woods, even if some sectors of the economy begin to reopen.
But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered a different message.
“Don’t steal, don’t rob, don’t betray, and that helps a lot with not getting the coronavirus,” he said Thursday. He also told people to socially distance when they could, and wash their hands.
AMLO, as the President is commonly known, ventured out of Mexico City on Monday for the first time since late March.
He toured the Yucatán Peninsula and inaugurated construction of the so-called Maya Train, an ambitious infrastructure project that will connect cities in five southeastern states.
Mexico has recorded 110,026 cases and 13,170 deaths. But given extremely low testing rates in the country, health officials have said the true number of cases is likely well into the millions.
One person told CNN affiliate TVPerú Noticias that oxygen prices have doubled. And the government now admits there’s a problem.
“Our mission is to avoid the development of a black market that is mercantile and uses a pandemic to abuse people,” said Cesar Chaname, a spokesperson for Peru’s public health agency.
Peru continues to grapple with one of Latin America’s worst outbreaks, its 187,400 cases the second highest in the region behind Brazil.
The country has far better testing rates than other countries in the region, something experts say helps understand how bad the outbreak there truly is.
But even with that knowledge, the economic toll has pressured authorities to reopen the economy.
This week officials announced Peru would enter Phase 2 of its reopening plan, where businesses like clothing stores and hair salons can operate again.
Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra said the moves mean roughly 80% of the economy would soon be open.
“We can’t support 100% of the country’s needs with just 50% of the economy’s output,” he said.
Despite the brutal situations facing many countries in Latin America, there are some success stories too. Consider Uruguay, so far with one of the most successful Covid-19 responses in the world.
The country of roughly 3.5 million people borders Brazil, where the worst outbreak in Latin America has played out to devastating effect.
But Uruguay has recorded just 834 cases. It has recorded one death since May 24 and just 23 fatalities in total.
Experts say the reasons for the country’s success are numerous — a robust early response including quarantine measures, a large and efficient system of tracing and isolating those infected, randomized testing and the creation of a crisis response committee.
Consequently, there is less risk as Uruguay begins to reopen its economy.
The country began easing restrictions in early May. On June 1 primary and secondary rural education started again in more than 400 schools, and businesses are also gradually being allowed to reopen.