Coronavirus: What are the numbers out of Latin America?

Coronavirus cases have been rising sharply in Latin American countries, contributing to record numbers of new infections being recorded globally.

Brazil has had more than one and a half million confirmed cases – the second highest in the world after the US.

Other countries in the region, including Mexico, Chile and Peru, are also battling major outbreaks.

So what are the main trends in Latin America?

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Latin America deaths per 100,000 people
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The first confirmed case in Latin America was identified in Brazil on 26 February, although researchers have said there are indications that there were cases there as early as January.

Coronavirus has since spread to every country in the region.

More than 2.5 million cases have been recorded, and more than 100,000 people have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

That is fewer deaths than in the US and Europe, but both cases and deaths may be under-reported.

Latin America’s two most populous nations, Brazil and Mexico, have seen the highest number of deaths, more than 64,000 and 30,000 respectively.

Peru has the sixth highest number of reported cases in the world, and has had more than 10,000 confirmed deaths.

Chile is reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases each day, with more than 6,000 people dead.

Ecuador recorded one of the earliest and worst outbreaks in the region, although cases here are now stabilising – but this is not the trend in many other countries.

Peak not yet reached

Daily reported deaths in many Latin American countries remain high, as they drop in the US and most countries in Europe.

You can see the differing trends when looking at Brazil, Mexico and Peru compared with three of the worst-hit countries in Europe in terms of deaths – the UK, Italy and France.

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Latin American countries daily deaths compared to European countries
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The head of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr Carissa Etienne has warned that coronavirus is spreading “exponentially” in many areas of the region.

The number of deaths in Brazil, Mexico and Peru has been doubling roughly every three weeks.

study by the University of Washington has warned that Brazil’s death toll could climb to 125,000 by early August.

Man wearing Mexican flag maskImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMexico has one of the highest numbers of deaths

Dr Etienne has said “there can be no doubt our region has become the epicentre” of the pandemic.

Experts say the peak of the epidemic in some Latin American countries could be some weeks away.

As daily cases continue to rise, there are concerns that healthcare systems could be overwhelmed, as has already been the case in Ecuador.

Pilar Mazzetti, who is leading the Peruvian government’s coronavirus response, has said: “We’re in bad shape. This is war.”

What is being done to stop the spread?

Mexico and Brazil have continued to take less severe lockdown measures than other Latin American countries.

Both have given out guidelines, but have not imposed national restrictions.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C) attends a rally with supporters in BrasiliaImage copyrightEPA
Image captionPresident Bolsonaro still attends rallies with supporters

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the virus, and has been ordered by a judge to wear a mask in public in the capital Brasilia, or face a fine.

Marcia Castro, a global health professor at Harvard University, says that “the response in Brazil is far from ideal, and currently there is a lack of a uniform message coming from the leadership at different levels.”

Other countries such as Argentina have imposed compulsory lockdowns.

Prof Castro says it is, along with Uruguay, among the countries in the region for now able to manage the spread.

Peru had one of the first and strictest national lockdowns in the region, which lasted until the end of June.

But it continued to see both cases and deaths rise.

As cases rapidly rise in Chile, the government has tightened lockdowns across the country.

Chile has one of Latin America’s highest rates of testing – around 60 tests per 1,000 people.

But testing across most of the region is well below some other parts of the world.

Mexico test around four people for every 1,000, compared with more than 100 per 1,000 in the US.

Brazil also has a very low testing rate, and a study by the University of São Paulo Medical School estimates the number of infections could be up to 15 times higher than the official figure.

Graphics by Cecilia Tombesi