South America Is Now Covid-19 Hot Spot, With Eight Times the World’s Death Rate - The Wall Street Journal
Jun 21, 2021 2 mins, 28 secs

SÃO PAULO—While Covid-19 is receding in much of the world, the pandemic is raging in South America, which has just 5% of the world’s population but now accounts for a quarter of the global death toll.

Amid another devastating surge, Brazil surpassed 500,000 this past weekend, with the virus killing seven times as many people per capita each day than in hard-hit India. Colombia and Argentina, which together have 95 million people, are tallying three times as many deaths each day as all of Africa. Of the 10 countries around the world with the highest daily death rates per capita, seven are now in South America.

and other nations, South America has turned into the pandemic’s epicenter,” said Denise Garrett, an epidemiologist who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more than 20 years.

With 50 million people, Colombia has recorded about 4,200 deaths from Covid-19 over the past week—about 50% more than the whole of Africa.

While some countries like Chile have progressed quickly with vaccinations, fewer than one in 10 people in Latin America and the Caribbean overall have been vaccinated, according to the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO.

The White House recently announced the donation of 500 million Pfizer vaccines to 92 countries, but only Bolivia and Guyana made the list from South America.

Confronted during the past year with the near-impossible task of keeping people at home in countries where half of workers toil in the informal economy, often living hand to mouth, some officials bet on herd immunity, either openly or behind closed doors.

Victor Zamora, who was Peru’s health minister at the start of the pandemic, said the government was so sure last year there wouldn’t be a second wave that they shelved contracts to build new plants to manufacture canisters of oxygen. It was a decision that had deadly consequences as people suffocated from a lack of oxygen.

Cumulatively, Peru has had by far the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 per capita in the world.

The total death count in the country of 32 million tops 190,000, more than three times higher than far more populous South Africa.

What support should the international community lend to countries like Brazil in the battle against the coronavirus.

The Gamma strain, responsible for most new infections in Brazil, was shown to be up to 2.2 times more contagious than previous versions of the virus. The country is logging about 2,000 deaths a day, reaching a total of 501,825 on Sunday.

State government officials said they believe that people may either be afraid after suffering side effects from the first, or have forgotten, or have even fallen sick between doses.

It is a worrisome trend, epidemiologists said, especially because Brazil and other countries have largely relied on the CoronaVac vaccine from Chinese firm Sinovac, which some studies show has little efficacy after the first shot.

And with a median age of 31, South Americans are more susceptible than people in Africa, where the median age is 20.


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