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Uruguay: unions organize protests against “starvation and inequality”

Lucas Berti
Jun 18, 2021 15:14

Trade union centers in Uruguay are holding a 24-hour strike “against starvation and inequality” in the country, demanding more government action against the social and economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

After keeping the virus at bay for almost the entirety of 2020, Uruguay experienced a pandemic nightmare in 2021: of the country’s 5,142 coronavirus deaths, more than 4,000 were reported in the last three months

According to union leaders, protests are “marching for lives,” calling on President Luis Lacalle Pou to find a solution to “more than 100,000 poor and over 80,000 new unemployed Uruguayans.” In the meantime, the 3.5-million-people nation has enjoyed a fast vaccine rollout: as of today, more than 38 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Paraguay buys 1 million vaccines from Vaxxinity

Lucas Berti
Jun 18, 2021 14:36

With one of the lowest vaccination rates in South America, Paraguay is in a race against time to make progress in its immunization effort, turning now to non-approved vaccines. This week, health authorities in Asunción greenlit the purchase of 1 million UB-612 vaccine doses produced by U.S company Vaxxinity. 

The Vaxxinity immunizer has not yet been approved by U.S regulators, meaning the deal will only benefit the country in the coming months. To make matters worse, Paraguay doesn’t have its own regulatory agency, depending on decisions made by neighboring countries. 

During the week, the 7.1-million-people nation also welcomed a 540,000-dose batch backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). 

Improving vaccination in Paraguay is urgent: as of June 18, only 1.5 percent of the country’s population have been vaccinated.

PAHO: “until everybody has vaccines, we need urgent health protocols”

Lucas Berti
Jun 18, 2021 13:13

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Thursday that the recent peak of infections in several Latin American countries call for “stricter measures,” especially as rollouts of vaccines in the region have been uneven. 

According to PAHO director Carisse Etienne, the organization urges countries to strengthen public health measures in places with high transmission, which is “the most effective way to reduce cases until we have enough vaccines for everyone.” 

As of June 11, Latin America and the Caribbean — home to more than 642 million people — is in the possession of 31 doses per 100 inhabitants, below the world average of 33. The region also reports over 34.8 million cases and more than 1.2 million coronavirus deaths as of today. 

“We are in a region where cases are increasing, hospitals are crowded, and variants are circulating quickly,” Ms. Etienne said.

Mexico sends over 1 million medical supplies to Guatemala

Lucas Berti
Jun 18, 2021 13:00

Eyeing regional protagonism in Central America, the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Mexico delivered over 1 million medical supplies to neighboring Guatemala, including protection kits, face masks, and digital health equipment. 

According to the Mexican embassy in Guatemala City, “the primary benefit will be for Guatemalan doctors and frontline pandemic workers.” While Mexico is enjoying a period of calm amid the pandemic — this week, the country reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths in 14 months — Guatemala is still struggling. Just 0.8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and the country is seeing a peak of infections and deaths in June.

Paraguay struggling to keep up with neighbors in vaccination push

Gustavo Ribeiro
Jun 17, 2021 14:15

For the best part of 2020, Paraguay managed to avoid collapse while the coronavirus ravaged much of South America. But the country has now been mired in pandemic hell for months, with ICU occupancy rates over 100 percent since March.

Paraguay has fully vaccinated just 1.5 percent of its population so far, ranking it far behind its neighbors. 

“The country still has a very high level of community transmission. Forecasts are quite bleak for this month, and probably for part of July as well,” said Paraguay’s Health Surveillance Director Guillermo Sequera.

Coronavirus deaths are still rising. Covid-19 became the main cause of maternal deaths in June, and over 30 percent of intensive care patients do not survive. 

In March, thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Mario Abdo Benítez. The opposition in Congress tried to oust him, but failed to whip enough votes.

Mexico resumes cruises after more than a year

Lucas Berti
Jun 17, 2021 12:54

Hoping for a boost to its tourism industry, Mexico approved the return of cruise ships this week, which have been suspended since March 2020.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the cruise sector was one of the fastest growing segments in global tourism — with forecasts of 32 million passengers in 2020. But following multiple cases of onboard transmission of the coronavirus, the industry took a nosedive.

In Mexico, the restart will come in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, home to the world-famous beaches of Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Tourism accounts for over 87 percent of the local economy. 

According to local governor Carlos Joaquín, ships can only sail at 5 percent capacity and all passengers over 16 will require vaccination certificates and negative Covid-19 tests. 

Official data shows that international tourism in Mexico declined by 46 percent due to the coronavirus, costing over 143,000 jobs and USD 13 billion in profit. The return of cruises comes as Mexico’s Covid-19 curve is falling. This week, the country reported its lowest number of deaths for a single day in 14 months, despite suspicions of underreporting.

Health Ministry to receive advance of 7 million Pfizer vaccines

Lucas Berti
Jun 17, 2021 10:52

Brazil’s Health Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that it will get its hands on 7 million Pfizer vaccines ahead of time. As a result, overall estimates for vaccine deliveries from the American lab in July were increased from 8 to 15 million.

The batch of 7 million doses was only scheduled to arrive in Brazil in the year’s third quarter. However, suggesting the delivery is an “advance” is a stretch, considering that the Brazilian government continuously stalled purchase contracts with Pfizer for months. The pharmaceutical giant offered a deal in August 2020, but a tender was only signed in March of this year.

São Paulo’s ButanVac looking for clinical trial volunteers

Lucas Berti
Jun 16, 2021 17:17

São Paulo’s Butantan Biological Institute kicked off a registration process on Wednesday, looking for volunteers to take part in trials for Brazilian-made vaccine ButanVac. The phase 1 human trials will last for 17 weeks. The announcement, confirmed by Governor João Doria, comes seven days after Brazil’s federal health regulator Anvisa gave its approval for clinical trials. 

The tests will be conducted by the medical school of the University of São Paulo, in the city of Ribeirão Preto. According to Butantan, 418 volunteers over 18 years old will take part. 

Butantan head Dimas Covas confirmed that over 8 million doses have been produced so far, with 40 million expected to be delivered by October. By that point, the government plans to have already administered at least one vaccine dose to all São Paulo adults.

The ButanVac is the first vaccine produced in Brazil and the only one which does not rely on raw materials imported from abroad — something which has hamstrung the production of other vaccines.