The death toll from Covid-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean exceeded 1 million people in the past week, with the pandemic worsening in the part of the world with the highest per capita death rate, according to a Reuters tally.
From the dusty highlands of Bolivia to the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo, the pandemic has flooded underfunded health systems after quickly spreading to countries where many people survive hand-to-mouth and were unable to lock themselves down.
In Peru, one of the hardest-hit nations in the region, Covid-19 patients have died in overcrowded hospital corridors in the capital, Lima. Deep in Brazil’s Amazon jungle, many residents of the city of Manaus died without oxygen at home to fill damaged lungs after supplies ran out this year.
With cases in Europe, Asia and North America and flat in Africa, South America is the only region where new infections per capita are growing rapidly, according to Our World in Data. Although India is currently struggling due to one of the world’s worst pandemic outbreaks.
In May, an average of 31% of global Covid-19 deaths were in Latin America and the Caribbean, where only 8.4% of the world’s population live.
Doctors and epidemiologists say the coronavirus pandemic took unprepared governments by surprise and its impact was made worse by executives who downplayed their gravity and failed to ensure timely vaccine supplies.
The eight countries with the most Covid-19 deaths per capita in the past week were all in Latin America.
“Instead of preparing for the pandemic, we minimized the disease and said the tropical heat would disable the virus,” said Dr. Francisco Moreno Sanchez, head of the Covid-19 program in one of Mexico’s most important hospitals and critic of the government’s vaccination plan.
“Unfortunately, we are among the hardest hit regions, where the way the pandemic was handled the most wrongly, and now we are suffering from the consequences,” the epidemiologist told Reuters.