Brazil and Mexico suffered a record rise in daily coronavirus deaths amid fears Latin America is reopening too soon.
On Wednesday, Mexico reported a daily death toll that exceeded 1,000 for the first time since the outbreak began, while Brazil announced 1,349 deaths for the day, a record for the country.
Both nations now rank in the top ten countries that have suffered the highest number of fatalities, but there is grave concern that, unlike their European counterparts, Latin nations have yet to reach the peak of the epidemic.
Countries in Europe are beginning to emerge from their lockdowns, with borders reopening and people returning to work. But in South America, new hotspots are emerging and hospitals are threatened to be overwhelmed.
Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil, has vehemently opposed any form of lockdown, despite polls showing that more than 60% of Brazilians support stricter lockdown measures. This has resulted in battles with local authorities, who have defied presidential orders and locked down some states individually. Large parts of Bahia state were placed under curfew on Wednesday.
In Mexico, local authorities have been reluctant to heed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s calls for a return to economic normality. 300 municipalities were given the green light to lift stay-at-home orders and resume economic activity in late May, but there are fears that the virus is spreading undetected due to Mexico’s poor testing capacity. Official figures show that just 0.4 tests were carried out per 1,000 people.
The desire to resume economic activity appears to have trumped health concerns. In Mexico, 12m people were made unemployed in April alone.
Elsewhere in South America, the Chilean government announced a further three week extension to the shutdown of the capital Santiago after another record day of coronavirus deaths.
In Peru, the journalists’ union announced that 20 reporters have died covering the pandemic, largely due to a lack of protective equipment. The medical sector is also suffering a supply shortage, with a lack of oxygen tanks the most acute issue.
“We haven’t found oxygen yet,” Lady Savalla told Agence France-Presse in the capital Lima.
“I’m worried about my mom more than anything else, because she’s going to need a lot of oxygen and the hospital doesn’t have enough.”