The “new epicenter” of the coronavirus, according to the WHO, South America, and Brazil in particular, face the tough challenge of curbing the pandemic, which continues to hit the United States, where President Donald Trump increases pressure to revive the economy.

The much-announced tragedy that was to strike Brazil over its controversial policies to confront the pandemic is now a reality, with more than 330,000 cases and 21,000 deaths. The South American giant has displaced Russia as the second country with the most infections in the world behind the United States, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

In a country of 210 million inhabitants and a population younger than Europe, the proportion of young adults killed by the new coronavirus is higher than that of other states severely affected by the pandemic, especially among the poorest classes.

69% of those killed by covid-19 are over 60 years old, according to official figures, while in countries such as Italy and Spain, those over 60 represent 95% of deaths.

With Brazil in the foreground, South America has become “a new epicenter of the disease”, said the person in charge of emergencies of the World Health Organization (WHO), Michael Ryan, by teleconference from Geneva.

“We see the number of cases increase in numerous South American countries. There is a lot of concern around those countries, but clearly the most affected at the moment is Brazil.”

Throughout Latin America, more than 37,000 people have died and about 675,000 covid-19 infections have been registered.

The situation in Brazil is further complicated by disagreements between the majority of the governors, in favor of confinement measures, and the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who criticizes them due to their economic impact.

The diffusion of a video of a ministerial meeting in which Bolsonaro describes the governor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, as “bosta”, and that of Rio de Janeiro, Wilson Wietzel, as “manure”, removes the possibility of a greater understanding between the president and the states.

– Bankruptcy of Hertz in the USA –

However, the region is far from the 1.6 million cases and some 96,000 deaths in the United States, where Donald Trump increases pressure on local governments to ease confinement and revive the economy, with the battle for his reelection increasingly up hill.

As a sign of the sweeping impact of the pandemic, car rental company Hertz announced Friday that it filed for bankruptcy in the United States and Canada and laid off 20,000 people, half of its global workforce.

“The impact of covid-19 on travel demand was sudden and dramatic, leading to a sharp drop in company revenue and future bookings,” the company said in a statement.

In a new step in its offensive to revive the economy, the Trump administration said Friday that it would exempt foreign professional athletes competing in major leagues in sports such as basketball, tennis and Golf.

Trump also urged state governors to allow the immediate reopening of places of worship, which he called “essential places.”

“In the United States, we need more prayers, not less,” said the Republican president, who is very popular with conservative evangelicals.

Pressed over the alleged illegality of confinement in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti replied that his administration “is not guided by politics on this.” “We are guided by science, we are guided by collaboration,” he said.

The United States recorded 1,260 deaths from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours, reaching a total of 95,921 deaths, according to the latest count by Johns Hopkins University on Friday.

– Concern for the Amazon –

In Latin America, one of the main concerns is the immense Amazon region, which in Brazil has about 450 infected people for every 100,000 inhabitants.

On the Bolivian side, the Amazonian department of Beni, on the border with Brazil, was declared a “health disaster” after suffering an exponential increase in infections and deaths from coronaviruses, Governor Fanor Amapo reported on Friday.

Beni, with some 480,000 inhabitants, was until April 20 the only region in Bolivia free of coronavirus infections, but in a month it came to occupy the second place in the country – after Santa Cruz – with more than 900 of the almost 5,200 cases registered by the country.

In Peru, the second country in the region in number of infections and the third in deaths, the government extended mandatory confinement until June 30, although it reduced the night curfew in Lima and in central and central regions by one hour. south.

Another of the most affected countries, Ecuador, exceeded 3,000 deaths and the authorities suspect that another 1,892 deaths were probably due to covid-19.

The situation continues to feel tense in Chile, where after a sharp increase in cases and deaths this week, many inhabitants of the poorest neighborhoods of Santiago have breached confinement in recent days to demonstrate and claim food aid.

In one of these protests, in Cerrillos, a disadvantaged area of ​​Santiago, a policeman was wounded by gunfire on Friday during clashes with a group of protesters.

– The tourism dilemma in Europe –

In Europe, where more than 171,000 people died, a slow normalization is being imposed and now governments are wondering how to continue with the lack of confidence in the face of the summer and the upcoming tourism season, very important for its economy.

Many Germans often spend the summer holidays abroad, somewhere sun-drenched, but this year, fearing a second wave of coronavirus infections, they prefer the Baltic beaches or the Bavarian mountains to their beloved Majorca.

In Spain, the old fishing district of Barceloneta, the most popular beach in Barcelona, ​​the scene in recent summers of protests against the festivities and the incivism of some tourists, is now undergoing another type of invasion.

Usually filled with bathers and street vendors, it is now transformed every morning into a large open-air gym, where people from Barcelona go for a run, swim or stroll. “Normally I don’t come to these beaches (…) Now it is more pleasant. Also, the water is cleaner,” says Emma Prades, a 43-year-old psychologist.

Madrid and Barcelona will be able to reopen terraces of bars, museums and hotels from Monday, as half the country already did two weeks ago. Germany, France and Italy are also advancing with lack of confidence.

If the Old Continent seems to show its head after two black months, in Russia, with more than 317,000 cases and 3,000 deaths, the authorities expect a “significant increase” in the number of deaths from coronavirus in May.

“Our analysis and the development curve of the epidemic in Russia … indicate that a significant increase in mortality indicators will be registered in May,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said at a government meeting on Friday.

burx-plh / mar / es