The first Covid-19 infections in South America emerged late February/early March, with Brazil being the first country to confirm a case on Feb. 27. Chile Today reported how Chile’s neighbors were handling the arrival of the virus. Now that the ‘new normal’ has kicked in, it is time to take another look at how the measures have worked and which challenges have emerged.
After an adjustment in how to measure Covid-19 deaths, Chile reported 2,190 fatalities by June 7. Its containment strategy focuses on complete lockdowns only in the most-hit areas and sanitary checkpoints to prevent the spread between regions. Due to criticism over methodology, the government canceled plans to introduce sanitary passports for recovered patients to allow them free movement.
Brazil currently faces the most detrimental health situation, having confirmed 36,455 deaths. The political situation contributes to this death toll, as two Health Ministers stepped down since April. The post is still vacant, with President Jair Bolsonaro confidant general Eduardo Pazuello leading the ministry on an interim basis. The government has recently deleted the official cumulative death toll from its website.
Although being the first Latin American country to impose a complete lockdown, Peru still suffered steep peaks during May, reaching a total death toll of 5,465 by June 8, the second highest in the region. But the country has also carried out over 600,000 tests, which could be a reason for the nearly 200,000 coronavirus infections. Observers, however, suggest citizens are increasingly ignoring the restrictions. Moreover, the central authority struggles to reach the country’s many remote communities, while chronic underinvestment in the health system is now backfiring.
Authorities reported a relatively low number of 465 Covid-19-related deaths by June 8. After a strict lockdown in which the military and police went door to door to carry out tests, the government is now partly relaxing measures in less affected areas to give the economy some air. By June 3, around 8,900 of the country’s over 10,500 cases were recorded in the eastern areas of Santa Cruz and Beni, whereas the high-altitude capital of La Paz had relatively few. This spread has already attracted scientists researching the virus.
Despite the pandemic, the Supreme Electoral Court recently announced that elections will be held on September 6. After society calmed a bit down once Evo Morales was ousted, insiders expect polarization to rise before the elections. In December, 35 citizens died in riots that erupted after a dodgy election and a response by Morales’ opponents that suggested a military coup was imminent.
By June 8, 670 Argentines had died of Covid-19 and numbers keep rising. The still low number of deaths is due to an early and wide-ranging lockdown imposed by President Alberto Fernández. His crisis management has received widespread approval as his popularity rating rose from 56.8 percent when he entered office in December to 68.5 by the end of April. Argentina’s biggest menace, in the guise of an economic crisis following the health crisis, is already lurking, though. The country is facing default as it is unable to repay US$65 billion and investors are not willing to restructure the debt.
Pelle is currently interning at Chile Today. He is a Dutch postgraduate student at Leiden University specialized in Latin American international relations. Previously, he studied at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago.