Latin America becomes the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic as corruption increases with mismanaged relief funds

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Latin America has become the new epicenter of the global coronavirus epidemic, with the region recording more than 2.4 million cases and more than 143,000 deaths, a health official said on Tuesday.

Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said at a media briefing in Washington, DC, that her researchers “are particularly concerned that the number of new cases reported the last week in Brazil was the highest in seven years. day since the start of the epidemic. “

“Peru and Chile also report a high incidence,” she added. “Now is not the time to relax restrictions or reduce prevention strategies. Now is the time to stay strong, stay alert and aggressively implement proven public health measures. “

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This combo shows freshly dug graves, above, on April 1, 2020 at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, compared to a month later on April 30 with the graves filled. Authorities in Sao Paulo have dug hundreds of new graves in anticipation of an increased death rate in the city in the presence of the new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo AP / Andre Penner)

This combo shows freshly dug graves, above, on April 1, 2020 at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, compared to a month later on April 30 with the graves filled. Authorities in Sao Paulo have dug hundreds of new graves in anticipation of an increased death rate in the city in the presence of the new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo AP / Andre Penner)

A new US travel ban against Brazil will come into effect Thursday evening, as Latin America continues to see a dramatic increase in the number of cases coupled with a nasty increase in corruption. The Trump administration “has determined that the Federative Republic of Brazil is experiencing widespread and continuous person-to-person transmission” of the virus, according to a White House statement released on Sunday.

The US Department of Defense has said that Brazil will be added to a list of countries with limited access, including Iran, China and most European countries, all of which have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

US citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who return to the United States after recently visiting Brazil or other countries where travel is limited may still return by following a process of improving medical checks at airports designated.

“As we reopen the US economy, the Trump administration continues to take aggressive measures to protect the American people from COVID-19,” said Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf. “By adding Brazil to the list of countries with reduced mobility based on careful and in-depth analysis of the data, we are proactively mitigating another risk factor for our communities. While this may upset some travelers, measures are needed to protect the public from further spread of the virus. “

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The family of Carmen Valeria looks at her remains as they are placed in a niche by cemetery workers at the Iraja cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, April 30, 2020. The family suspects that the 76-year-old woman died from COVID-19. (Photo AP / Silvia Izquierdo)

The family of Carmen Valeria looks at her remains as they are placed in a niche by cemetery workers at the Iraja cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, April 30, 2020. The family suspects that the 76-year-old woman died from COVID-19. (Photo AP / Silvia Izquierdo)

To account for the inclusion of Brazil, the George Bush Intercontinental Airport and the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have been added to the list of 15 US airports that currently receive flights from countries with travel restrictions.

During his press conference on Tuesday, Etienne also stressed the need for “aggressive preventive measures to protect people with diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases from the new coronavirus”, suggesting that the implementation of telemedicine could reduce the risk of contagion in waiting rooms.

Since health workers in Latin America have priority to treat the influx of COVID-19 patients, those suffering from noncommunicable diseases do not have access to care due to disruption of the health system. PAHO said before the pandemic, 81% of all deaths in Latin America were due to noncommunicable diseases, 39% of which were premature before the age of 70.

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, wearing a mask against the spread of the new coronavirus, wears a child dressed in a military police uniform during a demonstration against the Supreme Court and the National Congress of Brazil, to support his opening campaign to the economy in the midst of the pandemic, in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, May 17, 2020. Bolsonaro greeted hundreds of supporters who gathered at the presidential residence to support his campaign for economic opening as the COVID pandemic- 19 spreads across the country. (Photo AP / André Borges)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, wearing a mask against the spread of the new coronavirus, wears a child dressed in a military police uniform during a demonstration against the Supreme Court and the National Congress of Brazil, to support his opening campaign to the economy in the midst of the pandemic, in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, May 17, 2020. Bolsonaro greeted hundreds of supporters who gathered at the presidential residence to support his campaign for economic opening as the COVID pandemic- 19 spreads across the country. (Photo AP / André Borges)

Corruption in Latin America is on the increase in the middle of the pandemic, as Panama’s politicians in Argentina have been forced to resign in recent weeks for allegedly taking advantage of the crisis, making fraudulent purchases of respirators, masks and others medical supplies, the New York Times reported.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been scrutinized nationally and internationally for flouting the advice of his own public health advisers, mingling and taking photos among a large crowd of supporters during the pandemic .

Rejecting the coronavirus as a “little flu,” Bolsonaro also condemned state governors for imposing home maintenance and other social distancing measures, and instead encouraged Brazilians to return to work.

Meanwhile, hospitals have become overwhelmed across Brazil, the largest country in South America, and in the city of São Paulo, officials say, the public health system is on the verge of collapse.

Police raided the governor’s home in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday as part of a federal investigation into the corruption of the coronavirus.

Governor Wilson Witzel, former ally of Bolsonaro’s foe, accused of using his wife’s law firm to embezzle money from government contractors hired to build field hospitals amid pandemic, Reuters says .

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Rising prices for medical equipment are rampant. Prosecutors in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires allege that city officials knowingly bought expired N95 masks at prices 10 times higher than politically connected intermediaries.

In Colombia, 14 of the country’s 32 governors are under investigation for corruption conspiracies involving the embezzlement of relief funds or the awarding of contracts without tender, according to the Times. The Bolivian Minister of Health was arrested for allegedly purchasing more than 170 ventilators at inflated prices.

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