Brazilian right-wing populist president Jair Bolsonaro and Mexican left-wing leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have often swum against scientific opinion since the start of the crisis, first by minimizing the threat of the virus and more recently by focusing on reopening their economies despite the increase in cases.
The increase in the number of virus cases in chunks of Latin America comes at a time when other regions, especially Europe and China, are seeing a downward trajectory of new infections.
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Brazil, the hardest hit country in Latin America, has a daily record of 13,944 new cases, bringing its total to 202,918 confirmed virus cases and 13,933 deaths since the start of the epidemic, the data said. from the Ministry of Health.
Mexico, the second most affected country in the region, reported 2,240 new infections on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 42,595. 257 additional coronavirus deaths brought the total number of deaths to 4,477.
“We are in the most difficult moment of the first wave of the epidemic,” said Mexican coronavirus tsar Hugo Lopez-Gatell on Thursday.
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He said Mexico is at the peak of its pandemic cycle and “cannot relax the measures,” warning that the country must adopt a “new normal” amid threats of the virus’s resurgence. Government data on Thursday showed that more than half of the capital’s hospitals were saturated with coronavirus patients.
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Lopez-Gatell’s comments came up against intensified preparations to ease restrictions and reopen the Mexican economy, particularly the auto sector and factories near the US border to help vital supply chains for American manufacturing companies.
Similar efforts to revive the economy were gaining momentum in Brazil, as Bolsonaro urged business leaders to push for the lifting of blocking orders in Sao Paulo, the financial center.
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In a videoconference, Bolsonaro told a gathering of business leaders to “play hard” with the governor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, who issued social distancing orders and said he would not comply with the latest Bolsonaro decree to reopen gymnasiums and beauty salons.
“A man decides the future of Sao Paulo,” said Bolsonaro, referring to Doria. “He decides the future of the Brazilian economy. With all due respect, you must call the governor and play hard – play hard – because this is a serious problem, it is war. Brazil is at stake, ”said the president.
Sao Paulo, the most populous state in Brazil and home to a third of its economic output, has seen hospitals taken to the extreme as it records the worst epidemic in the country.
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Colombia on Thursday evening stepped up measures to stop coronavirus infections near its border with Brazil, with its own hospitals overwhelmed and cases increasing in a vulnerable part of the Amazon where many indigenous groups live.
President Ivan Duque announced that all residents of the Amazonas department should stay indoors, except to look for food or medical care. The military has also sent troops to strengthen border security.
“We find ourselves in a situation that could become critical given the epidemiological differences we have with the neighbors,” said Duque.
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Colombia has taken some of the region’s toughest measures against the virus, implementing a nationwide early foreclosure that remains in place in much of the country.
The Colombian river port city of Leticia and the giant department of Amazonas have seen an increase in the number of cases in recent days, from 105 at the start of the month to 924. Doctors say poorly equipped hospitals in the region are crowded, and local officials say they may need to open a new cemetery to manage the number of bodies.
To date, 30 people have died in the department.
Many indigenous people live near Leticia, which makes them particularly vulnerable to contamination by the virus. A total of 146 have been diagnosed, according to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia. According to the group, six people died.
In Nicaragua, where leftist President Daniel Ortega has been criticized for not having adopted any foreclosure measures, the United States told American citizens and their “families to take shelter there” on Thursday.
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“WE. citizens who stay in Nicaragua must ensure that they have enough food, water and medicine to shelter for at least two weeks, “the embassy said in a statement.
Nicaragua reported 25 cases, but doctors at the flooded hospitals told Reuters that the number of cases was significantly higher.
(Reporting by Drazen Jorgic in Mexico City, Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Ismael Lopez in Nicaragua. Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Leslie Adler)
—With files from the Associated Press in Colombia
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