RIO DE JANEIRO – For a time, at the beginning of the pandemic, when Latin America was mainly a spectator observing outbreaks in China, then in Europe, then in the United States, there was hope that when the coronavirus would get here, things would be different. The climate was warmer. People were younger. Governments have had more time to study mistakes made elsewhere and to prepare.
A few weeks later, more than a million people were infected, tens of thousands died and those hopes were dashed. The warmer weather did not slow the disease down as it devastated tropical metropolises in Ecuador and Brazil. The youth did not protect Mexico or Peru. And despite early and aggressive government action in many cases, Latin America has been unable to avoid what now seems to have always been inevitable.
The disease was a disaster in Brazil, now second behind the United States in the reported cases, with more than 31,000 dead, but it is not the only country in the region affected by the coronavirus. Peru has now confirmed twice as many infections as China. Mexico has killed more than 10,000 people. Chilean authorities, currently experiencing one of the most explosive outbreaks in the world, warn that the hospital system in Santiago is running out of capacity. The World Health Organization has declared Latin America to be the new epicenter of the global pandemic.