The novel coronavirus was first detected in mid-December 2019. Since then, the world has seen over 121,000 Covid-19 infections—and 4,300-plus deaths—spread across 114 countries. On March 11, the World Health Organization finally decided to declare the virus’ spread a pandemic.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday.
When compared to Asia, Europe, or North America, countries in Latin America have only been marginally affected by the outbreak at the time of publication. Brazil, the country in which most of the region’s infections have been confirmed, currently has 52 cases, with no deaths.
We at The Brazilian Report are mapping the spread of the virus in the country and around Latin America.
The first Latin America-related case of the coronavirus was an Argentinian man aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been quarantined at a Japanese port for over a month. The virus only reached Argentinian soil days later, with 19 confirmed infections and two deaths.
On Wednesday, the Health Ministry confirmed the second victim as a 65-year-old man who returned from Paris in February. According to the local press, the man already suffered from several health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic bronchitis, and kidney problems—and was found to be infected with the coronavirus during the autopsy of his corpse.
President Alberto Fernández ordered that all travelers coming from countries labeled as “risk areas” will be placed under quarantine for at least 14 days. The government also canceled all sporting events scheduled for March—with the exception of football matches. Yet, officials believe the Copa Libertadores—South America’s version of the Champions League—could be affected.
The second death in Latin America—and the first in Central America—occurred in Panama. Health Minister Rosario Turner said the patient suffered from diabetes and bacterial pneumonia—and did not disclose his age.
Ecuador’s Health Ministry informed that 17 people have tested positive for Covid-19, with the two most recent cases registered this week. In most cases, patients are resting at home, with no deaths so far. Since last week, passengers coming from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran were being put through mandatory screening.
In Bolivia, the two first cases were confirmed on March 10, in the cities of Oruro and San Carlos. Even before the first infection was confirmed, interim President Jeanine Áñez allowed regional administrations to make direct purchases of hospital supplies preparing for a possible outbreak.
In Colombia, the Iván Duque administration adopted “extreme measures” against the novel coronavirus. The city of Cali—where four of nine confirmed cases were registered—has reported a shortage of masks.
Meanwhile, the Chilean government confirmed 13 cases in its most recent update. The newest patients are an 83-year-old woman and an infant. Health Minister Jaime Mañalich said the country is still in a “phase 2” outbreak, as all cases can be traced back to patients who recently traveled abroad.
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez said that there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, adding that the country is already in an “epidemiological emergency.” It is telling that the only South American country free of Covid-19 is precisely the least democratic one on the list.
As in any authoritarian state, Venezuela can be opaque when it comes to the disclosure of alarming data—the government has notably skewed or hidden disfavorable economic figures concerning inflation rates, GDP growth, and even migration and health data. President Nicolás Maduro even said the virus may have been created to promote a “biological war against China.”
José Luis Alomía, an infectious disease expert for the Mexican Health Ministry, has confirmed seven cases so far, alongside 12 suspected infections. The first three patients diagnosed with Covid-19 will be sent home in a few days, after completing a 14-day isolation period at the hospital.
Even if Mexico’s number of infections is immensely lower than in the U.S.—where over 1,000 cases have been confirmed in 30-plus states—President Donald Trump used the outbreak to lash out at Latin American immigrants, tweeting: “We need the Wall more than ever.”
Central America and the Caribbean
The city council of San Salvador—the capital of El Salvador—launched a plan to prevent infections, as the country has no confirmed cases so far. Meanwhile, the government is blocking the entry of travelers from Germany and France.
In Honduras, Health Minister Alba Consuelo Flores reported two infections: a 42-year-old woman who traveled from Spain to the capital of Tegucigalpa, and a pregnant woman who is not showing strong symptoms. In Costa Rica, 179 cases are under investigation with 13 have been confirmed, including two toddlers.