New Covid-19 infections in Latin America are still rising, particularly in Brazil where a resurgence has caused record daily deaths, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned on Wednesday.
“We are concerned about the situation in Brazil. It provides a sober reminder of the threat of resurgence: areas hit hard by the virus in the past are still vulnerable to infection today,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in a briefing.
She said cases are on the rise in nearly every Brazilian state, with Amazonas state especially hard hit.
A new variant first discovered late last year has led to a surge in new infections there that have overwhelmed the health care system, which continues to experience widespread shortages of medical supplies, including oxygen, she said.
Brazil needs “very strict” public health measures to curb the surge that is overwhelming hospital ICU wards, PAHO’s incident manager Sylvain Aldighieri said.
In effect Brazil has overtaken the U.S. as the country with the most daily Covid-19 cases and deaths in the world. Brazil’s daily Covid-19 death toll surged to 2,286 on Wednesday, its highest yet during the pandemic. The U.S. death toll on Tuesday was 1,947.
Brazil’s seven-day average daily death toll has risen to 1,573 while the rate in the U.S. is plunging—down to 1,566 a day—amid fewer cases and more vaccination, according to Our World in Data at Oxford University. The U.S. hit a peak of just over 3,400 daily deaths in January. Brazil in the past week registered almost 1,000 new cases every 20 minutes—more than 70,000 a day.
According to PAHO, Cuba, the Bahamas, Saint Lucia and Guadeloupe are facing a rise in infections, and in South America Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile are reporting an increase in new cases, while Peru and Bolivia are finally seeing declines, PAHO said,
Vaccines have begun to arrive in Latin America, with 28.7 million doses allocated to the region for the next three months, through the COVAX facility led by the GAVI alliance and the World Health Organization to provide equitable access to shots.
PAHO, the Americas regional office of the WHO, has placed orders with the Serum Institute of India for 135,000 doses for Nicaragua and 228,000 for Bolivia, she said.
But PAHO warned that vaccine supply is limited, due to manufacturing constraints and high demand, and some countries will have to wait several months until they receive theirs.