Experts predict ‘tsunami’ of Covid-19 cases in Latin America followed by a deep recession

Apr 5, 2020 | 17 comments

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) expects a “tsunami” of Covid-19 cases in Latin America and the Caribbean, the director of the organization, Carissa Etienne, said on Saturday. She is urging the private sector to collaborate with governments to address the crisis by speaking at a forum of ministers and senior executives in the region who are leading the action to combat the new coronavirus.

A coffin is loaded into the back of pickup truck in Guayaquil. The city has been hard-hit by Covid-19.

In the region of the Americas, “millions of lives will be affected directly and indirectly by Covid-19,” said Etienne, according to a statement issued after the World Economic Forum’s Latin American Forum’s COVID Action Platform videoconference meeting. “Lives are already being lost, our health and well-being are directly threatened, our health systems are overburdened and our health workers are on edge,” said the director of PAHO, a regional body of the World Health Organization (WHO).

So far, Latin America has not see the deadly outbreaks now plaguing Europe and the United States, with most countries reporting less than 1,000 cases. The countries withe high case totals are Brazil with 10,672, Chile with 4,184 and Ecuador with 3,465.

The outbreak of the new coronavirus, first reported in China last December and declared a global pandemic by the WHO on March 11, left almost 1,206,000 infected worldwide, a quarter of them in the United States, and 66,400 dead. According to PAHO figures, as of April 4, 53 countries and territories in the Americas had reported 387,443 confirmed cases and 11,600 killed by Covid-19.

As part of the preparation for the expected increase in cases in the region, Etienne asked business leaders for support to solve what he considered to be the biggest challenge today: “access to quality and affordable tests and personal protective equipment” for workers in the region. on the front lines in the battle against the new coronavirus. “The private sector has an important role in ensuring the resilience of health systems,” he said.

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The Director of PAHO reported that private sector resources “can be made available quickly to increase the capacity of the health system”. Among them, he mentioned medical care services, facilities, laboratories, logistical transport capacity, staffing, information systems, technology and devices, including key equipment such as respirators.

There is currently no vaccine, although there are laboratories that have announced that they are trying to develop them, including the Americans Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, and the Chinese CanSinoBIO. Etienne also urged the private sector to work with governments to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic in the region, “in particular for the most vulnerable”.

Efforts are also underway in several Latin American countries to to test and develop medications that will alleviate virus symptoms.

This week, Etienne defended measures of social distancing – which have a cost for fragile economies such as Latin America – as they allow the spread of the virus to be prevented and the collapse of health services to be prevented. Among the participants, among others, were the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, and the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Barcena.

On Friday, ECLAC predicted a deep recession in Latin America due to the new coronavirus, which in 2020 will lead to a drop in regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 1.8% to 4%, with a projection of a strong increase in poverty. If the effects of Covid-19 lead to a loss of income for 5% of the economically active population in Latin America, poverty could increase by 3.5 percentage points, from 185.9 million people to 209.4 million people, he said. .

The IDB last week raised credits to $ 12 billion to address the COVID-19 crisis, committing itself to financing an immediate response to the emergency. This Thursday, PAHO called on international donors – philanthropic foundations and companies – to raise $ 95 million in aid to countries in the region to respond to the health crisis.
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Credit: Time / Life

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