With nearly 30,000 deaths in Brazil and more than 10,000 in Mexico, the coronavirus pandemic threatens to saturate Latin American health systems as France, which suffered a similar nightmare a few weeks ago, begins its return to a sort of normality on Tuesday.
Four of the 10 countries with the highest number of daily infections are Latin American: Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico, said Michael Ryan, the director of health emergencies of the World Health Organization (WHO), during a virtual press conference from Geneva .
“I don’t think we have reached the peak of contagion (in the region) and, at the moment, I cannot predict when it will be reached,” he added.
The continental focus is in Brazil, which, with 526,447 cases, is the second country in number of infections worldwide, behind the United States.
In the South American country of 210 million inhabitants, quarantine or unconfining measures have been applied differently depending on the states and cities. And far-right President Jair Bolsonaro often calls for those restrictions to be lifted to protect the economy and jobs, even though the pandemic has left 29,937 dead there.
– Reopening plan in Rio –
The municipality of Rio de Janeiro announced a gradual economic reopening plan, which will consist of six phases until a “return to normality” in August, said the mayor, Marcelo Crivella, at a press conference.
The first phase, which will begin this Tuesday, will allow the resumption of religious activities in places of worship with strict precautionary measures, such as the need to maintain social distance.
Individual water sports, such as surfing or swimming, can be practiced, but nobody can sunbathe on the kilometers of beach in the city. Shops may not reopen, with exceptions.
The state of Sao Paulo, the epicenter of the epidemic in Brazil and also the main economic engine of the country, began a gradual plan of unconfinement on Monday.
The rest of Latin America is also a cause for concern. “We need to dedicate ourselves to supporting Central and South America especially in their response,” said Ryan, who warned of the instability of the situation in several countries, with “a high increase in cases” and increasing pressure on health systems.
Peru, with 33 million inhabitants, is one of those countries at risk. According to the Ministry of Health, on Monday it exceeded 170,000 registered cases of covid-19, including more than 4,600 deaths.
Mexico, with 120 million inhabitants, has more than 93,000 reported cases and exceeded 10,000 deaths on Monday.
For its part, Chile exceeded 1,100 deaths and 100,000 infections.
– No deaths in Spain –
This gloomy picture contrasts with what is happening in Europe, where almost 180,000 deaths have been registered and more than 2.1 million infections, but where the situation is beginning to normalize.
The fact that no death was recorded by covid-19 in the last 24 hours in Spain (which accumulates 27,127 deaths) is “a very, very favorable fact”, according to the director of the Center for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón .
Although travel from one country to another is still not enabled, the most important tourist sites are reopening in Europe. This Monday it was the turn of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Spain, north), the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, with its 3,000 stores and 30,000 merchants, and the Colosseum in Rome, illuminated for the occasion in the colors of the Italian flag.
The imposing amphitheater in ancient Rome welcomed nearly 300 people who had booked the visit online, a figure far less than the 20,000 tourists a day it used to receive.
“We take advantage of the absence of foreign tourists for a walk,” said Pierluigi, a neighbor from Rome who arrived with his wife.
For Italy, the reopening of the Colosseum, which is added to that of other monuments and historical sites in recent days, should help relaunch the key sector of tourism, badly affected by the coronavirus that left more than 33,000 dead in the country.
– France is moving towards mistrust –
In France, where the pandemic caused nearly 30,000 deaths, the second phase of the government’s uncontrolled plan begins on Tuesday. Among other changes, citizens will now be able to travel more than 100 km from their homes, a measure highly anticipated by all.
And after the reopening of parks and gardens across France on Saturday, beaches, museums, monuments, zoos and theaters may open this Tuesday.
In the UK, schools in England, closed since mid-March, welcome children 4-6 and 10-11 again, despite criticism from teacher unions and local governments judging the hasty decision .
This Monday, the country, where the covid-19 has left more than 38,000 dead, reported 111 new deaths, its lowest daily balance of deaths since the start of confinement.
Despite the fear of a second wave, progress is also being made towards normalization in Finland (reopening of restaurants, libraries and other public places), Greece (kindergartens and primary schools), Romania (cafes, restaurants and beaches), as well as in Albania, Norway and Portugal.
But despite the positive signs seen in some countries, the coronavirus is still very active.
– Several fronts for Trump –
In the United States, with more than 105,000 deaths and some 1.8 million cases, President Donald Trump is facing not only a gigantic health crisis, but also an outbreak of protests and riots in several cities after the death of an African-American at the hands of police.
The country, the WHO’s largest contributor, decided to cut ties with the agency, which it accuses of leniency to China. However, its director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, affirmed on Monday his willingness to continue working with Washington.
“The WHO expects this collaboration to continue,” said the official, extolling “the generosity” of the United States “for many decades.”
The confinement measures have generated unrest in countries such as the United States, Spain and Argentina, and pressure is growing on governments to restart vital economic sectors.
In Chile, the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus caused the economy to collapse by 14.1% in April compared to the same month the previous year, the worst drop since records exist, the Central Bank reported on Monday.
Ecuador, where some 3,600 deaths were registered among more than 39,000 cases, decided to resume domestic commercial flights and reduce the curfew from 15 to 11 hours.
The Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, announced in his daily press conference the gradual reopening of economic activities related this Monday “related to the automotive industry, mining and the construction industry.”
And the Honduran government, for its part, divided the country into three zones, depending on the incidence of the virus, to launch a gradual and “smart” reopening of the economy.