Latin America against Coronavirus

The late arrival of the virus in the region allowed governments to prepare ahead of time and many are taking extreme prevention measures.

Woman wearing a mask.

With the expansion of the CoVid-19 virus pandemic, Latin American countries have prepared to face it. / Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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Leer en español: América Latina se enfrenta al Coronavirus

Although more cases of people with Coronavirus have not yet been confirmed in the region, measures have started to be taken drastically since prevention.

One of the most recent declarations of the World Health Organization (WHO) was given last Wednesday, March 11, when it cataloged Covid-19 as a pandemic after it had repeatedly stated that it had not yet been considered as such. In the explanation of said statement, it was said that the decision had been made due to the rapid spread of the virus. This, considering that although there were not as many cases outside of China yet, the number was increasing exponentially and was reaching a large number of countries, 101 countries until the last report.

After the above, Dr. Tredos Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, stated that the call of the virus as a pandemic must be cause for despair since it is at a "controllable" level. Thus, he reiterated that basic care measures must be followed, such as constant hand washing, avoiding crowds and contact with sick people, among others. And he called for trust in the public health of the countries since each government is implementing plans according to the needs of the country.

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The organization also called on countries that do not yet have a large number of cases, such as what is happening in South Korea, Italy, and Iran. They referred to countries that still do not have cases or that have "sporadic" cases to continue deploying protection and prevention plans, promoting testing for possible cases, preparing people working in the health sector and promoting self-isolation.

Measures in the region

Therefore, some Latin American countries have deployed preventive measures despite the fact that they do not have an out-of-control outbreak.

A little more than 15 days have passed since the first case of Coronavirus was known in the region, on February 26 in Brazil. From there, 13 more countries have confirmed cases: Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Paraguay.

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So far, there are around 120 cases in the entire region and Brazil has reported the highest number of cases, with more than 70. Chile followed with 22 and Argentina with 21, of which one was the first death in the region. The second death was reported in Panama on March 10. In both cases, they were older men (both were 64 years old), since it has been constantly warned that people of the third age or with pre-existing diseases are the most vulnerable to the virus becoming complicated.

On Thursday afternoon, President Jair Bolsonaro underwent the Coronavirus test after his chief of Communications, Fabio Wajngarten, tested positive. Despite the rumors of Bolsonaro being positive, there has not been any official confirmation. Even though, this set off alarms in the Amazonian country as it is not only the one with the most cases in the region, but two "autochthonous" cases were reported. In other words, they became infected without having contact with foreigners.

The concern also reaches the US government, as both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met Bolsonaro and Wajngarten a few days earlier at a dinner in Florida. However, and despite the fact that Trump himself expressed concern, the White House informed EFE that there are no plans to test the president.

In Argentina, as in most countries, following the recommendations of the WHO, people arriving on a trip have been urged to remain in preventive isolation for 14 days and to avoid any contact with other people. Despite the fact that the man who died was diagnosed with a positive Covid-19 after his death, the Ministry of Health has started the containment phase. This is intended to prevent the spread of the virus and be alert to cases that may appear suspicious.

Countries, in general, have taken the measures recommended by the organization and have designated extraordinary budgets that they have decided to take out after cutting in some sectors to focus on containment. The majority of reported cases are people who came directly from countries with a large number of confirmed cases, especially from Europe, and have been people with previous illnesses or older adults. In Honduras, the only reported case is that of a pregnant woman.

For its part, Colombia has been one of the countries in the region that has begun to take more drastic preventive measures, despite the fact that so far 9 cases have been reported and the outbreak does not seem to be out of control yet. On the morning of Thursday, March 12, President Iván Duque declared a health emergency in the country. With this measure, it was decreed that events with more than 500 people should be canceled and teleworking has been promoted from the mayoralties to avoid large displacements and traffic jams on the roads and means of transportation in the most congested hours.

Following the measures of the region, entertainment events such as concerts, music festivals, cultural and sporting events have been canceled. The Lollapalooza festival in Argentina was postponed although the decision has not yet been reported in Chile, the Stereo Picnic Festival in Colombia was postponed, the Guns N 'Roses concerts were canceled in some countries such as Ecuador and Costa Rica, the International Fair of the Book of Bogotá was suspended and the South American qualifiers for Qatar 2022 were postponed, among other events that cannot be carried out due to preventive measures.

Despite the warnings, the WHO has called to remain calm and governments have emphasized the need for self-care as the main preventive measure.

On the other hand, although in Venezuela no cases of Coronavirus have been reported yet, President Nicolás Maduro claimed to be ready when he arrives, as he said he had the "antidote to Coronavirus." According to his statements, he would have a pill of Cuban origin that has been what has helped people in China to improve. For now, he declared a health emergency and decided not only to suspend the arrival of flights from Europe for a month, but also those from Colombia.

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