Uruguay took a hands-off approach to the coronavirus pandemic while Argentina enforced strict containment measures, but the fate of South American neighbors was the same: they now have some of the death rates Highest Covid-19 in the world.
Fifteen months after the virus first appeared on the continent, much of South America is experiencing its worst time, despite some countries making great strides in their vaccination programs.
Uruguay tops the list of the world’s worst death rates, followed by Paraguay, with Argentina ranking third.
In the past two weeks, Uruguay has recorded 21.62 deaths per 100,000 population. Argentina scored 14.73. And three other South American countries round out the top six: Colombia, Brazil and Peru.
For reference, the US figure is 2.46 deaths per 100,000 population.
But the question is how two countries with opposing approaches to the pandemic could produce surprisingly similar and gruesome results.
# photo1 An answer can at least partially be found in people’s attitudes and behavior.
For much of 2020, Uruguay has been hailed as a model for handling the pandemic without ever resorting to lockdown, resulting in low risk perception and lax behavior.
And despite strict closures in Argentina, some annoyed people have behaved erratically, including going to social gatherings, as well as denial and rebellion, according to Elisa Estenssoro, a member of an expert group advising President Alberto Fernandez. .
– Uruguayans “do not believe” –
Uruguayans “don’t believe” the virus is serious, Francisco Dominguez, who works in an intensive care unit, told AFP.
“Until they have a family member here inside, they don’t believe. “
Uruguay’s indifference can be better understood considering the fact that by mid-2020 the country had fallen to less than 20 active cases and for many days had no new infections.
Today, the country is experiencing “historic” occupancy levels in intensive care units.
# photo2 “Never in the history of intensive medicine in the country, had there been 600 beds occupied before the pandemic,” Julio Pontet, president of the Uruguayan Society of Intensive Medicine, told AFP.
President Luis Lacalle Pou has prioritized “responsible liberty” in an effort to keep the economy running and has consistently resisted pressure from the health sector to impose a lockdown.
Shows and performances have been suspended since March and borders remain closed, but gyms have been allowed to reopen while restaurants and shops are operating normally.
Even an extremely successful vaccination program with 29 percent of the population fully immune and 47 percent having received at least one dose, has not slowed the increase in cases and deaths.
– Argentinian boredom –
Argentina began a nine-day lockdown last Saturday after new daily infections jumped to 30,000 and deaths to 500.
Irresponsible behavior, a late adoption of stricter restrictions, a lack of vaccines and new, more aggressive viral strains, according to Estenssoro, are behind the country’s latest wave.
“This terrible and unstoppable circulation of the virus is reinforced by the behaviors of people who are not coherent: social gatherings, people without masks … some people follow (restrictions) and others are in denial or revolt”, t she declared.
Boredom reigned as Fernandez acted decisively with closures, curfews, strict quarantine rules and a halt to all but essential activities.
“I’m out of breath, I had to see a psychiatrist because I can’t stay locked inside,” complained pensioner Nadia Mariella, 73, after receiving her vaccine in Buenos Aires.
Hospitals suffer from a lack of beds and oxygen, while staff are exhausted.
“Yesterday we had no beds. When you become free, it’s because of a death, ”said nurse Hector Ortiz from Durand Hospital in Buenos Aires.
Yet on Tuesday thousands took to the streets to protest the restrictions.
Argentina has suffered three years of recession and last year the economy shrank 9.9%.
Vaccine rollout is slow, with less than 20% of 45 million people receiving a first dose and just over 5% receiving both.
© 2021 AFP