Latin America and the Caribbean: the Continuing Impact of COVID-19 in 2021

by Daniel L. Sonnenberg, Regional Director for Timothy Two Project International in Latin America

As we approach the mid-point of 2021, although the impact of the pandemic is lessening to a large degree in the U.S., Latin America is another story. Infection rates continue to climb and there are many lingering effects.

Below are links and excepts from several articles published in 2021 on the continuing social, economic and political effects of the pandemic.

Timeline: Tracking Latin America’s Road to Vaccination

June 7, 2021 – AS/COA (Americas Society/Council of the Americas)

What portion of each country’s population is vaccinated?

Chart: Progress of Vaccine Rollout. [Percentage of population vaccinated in each country at this writing.]

  • United States – 53% (for comparison)
  • Guatemala – no information
  • Honduras – no information
  • Nicaragua – no information
  • Paraguay – no information
  • Venezuela – no information
  • Peru – 10%
  • Ecuador – 11%
  • Bolivia – 13%
  • Cuba – 17%
  • Colombia – 18%
  • Panama – 18%
  • Mexico – 20%
  • El Salvador – 21%
  • Costa Rica – 24%
  • Brazil – 25%
  • Argentina – 28%
  • Dom. Rep. – 39%
  • Uruguay – 60%
  • Chile – 61%

The World Health Organization has indicated that herd immunity against COVID-19 is achieved when 60 to 70 percent of a population is immune, although some medical experts have suggested the figure be higher. The lion’s share of immunity will come from vaccinations.

Communities in Crisis: Policy Recommendations to Address the Humanitarian Crisis in Northern Central America

June 19, 2021ReliefWeb

“Historically, migration issues in northern Central America have been addressed by the United States government with policies focused primarily on economic development and immigration enforcement, including inconsistent application of international law. These measures have been insufficient in recognizing urgent humanitarian needs of those seeking safety.”

The IRC recommends the following steps to meaningfully address the humanitarian crisis of which migration is a last resort: …

Latin America and the Caribbean: Impact of COVID-19

May 21, 2021Congressional Research Service

Health impact. In its weekly briefing on May 19, 2021, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported that infections had begun to drop throughout the region in the past month after a surge in cases, particularly in South America.

Economic impact. In the April 2021 update of its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund(IMF) estimated a 7.0% economic contraction for the region. Economic recovery may be a protracted process in countries that rely heavily on global trade and investment. Caribbean nations that depend on tourism face deep economic recessions, several with projected economic declines over 15% in 2020. Several South American nations hard hit by the pandemic are projected to register economic contractions over 10%. Although most countries in the region are expected to begin economic recovery in 2021, the IMF regional growth forecast of 4.6% lags behind the expected world economic growth forecast of 6.0%.

Political impact. Even before the pandemic, public satisfaction with the quality of democracy in several Latin American and Caribbean countries was eroding. The 2018-2019 Americas Barometer public opinion survey showed the lowest level of satisfaction with democracy since the poll began in 2004. Several broad political and economic factors drove the decline and help explain the eruption of social protests in the region in 2019. Political factors include an increase in authoritarian practices, weak democratic institutions, politicized judicial systems, corruption, and high levels of crime and violence.

Latin America’s grueling battle with Covid-19 isn’t letting up

April 5, 2021CNN

More than 100 days since the first Covid-19 vaccinations in Latin America, the pandemic is still dangerously resurging in some areas. The region’s recent battle with the coronavirus remains marked by disparities, with some countries boasting of positive vaccination trends while hospitals in neighboring nations collapse under waves of new cases. Particularly worrying are high Covid-19 mortality rates in Brazil, Peru, Chile and Paraguay — a likely sign that local health systems are being stretched beyond their capacity.

Brazil is, by far, the most affected country in the region at the moment.The locally identified P.1 variant is believed to be more contagious than the original coronavirus, and March alone saw over 66,000 new Covid-related deaths — more than double the toll of any other month since the beginning of the pandemic.

Brazil is breaking Covid-19 records. Meanwhile, despite solid vaccination infrastructure, Brazil’s coronavirus vaccination campaign is proceeding at a slow rate with little over 10% of the total population having received the first vaccine dose, according to data from each state health departments.

Peru called for a total lockdown last week, allowing only one person per household to leave home for essential business, to limit the impact of a third wave of the virus. Fellow Andean nation Ecuador is in dire straits too, last week declaring a state of emergency in eight different provinces due to a surge of Covid hospitalizations. And nearby Bolivia, like Uruguay, is closing its borders with Brazil.

In Peru, the third wave of the virus is in full swing and numbers for new cases are growing fast: In March, the country recorded more cases than in any other month since the beginning of the pandemic, with the exception of August 2020 — the peak of the first wave.

According to an analysis by John Hopkins University, Peru has the second highest mortality rate in the world, only behind Mexico. Meanwhile, its vaccine rollout has been glacial, with only a few thousand doses administered each day. At current rates, it would take Peru more than a decade to reach herd immunity.

Particularly worrying is the fact that, Chile and its neighbors Argentina and Uruguay are heading towards colder temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere. Covid-19 thrives in winter conditions both because the virus itself is more stable and contagious in lower temperatures, and because people tend to spend more time indoor in winter months.

Eric Farnsworth on CNN: Migration from Central America to the United States

June 7, 2021CNN

“I don’t think there are necessarily solutions to be had, rather the management of a difficult issue,” said the AS/COA vice president.

Farnsworth emphasized that the need for better healthcare, better education, and better security are problems throughout the Northern Triangle and parts of Central America. “The real answer is the United States cannot do this. This has to be coming from the region itself,” said Farnsworth. “We can offer guidance and advice and money, and we can show, frankly, that we won’t accept certain behaviors in the context of corrupt activities or things that really go against democratic principles.”

COVID hot spots persist in Latin American countries

May 19, 2021Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

Americas still wracked by cases, deaths

Brazil’s decline in cases has stopped, and cases and deaths doubled last week in parts of Argentina and Uruguay, a sign that the Americas region is still in the heat of battle with COVID, officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said today during a briefing.

Though the world’s cases declined last week, four of the five highest burden countries are in the Americas region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly snapshot of the pandemic. They include the Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and Colombia.

Yesterday, Argentina—now in its second surge—reported a record daily high for deaths, with 745 confirmed, in addition to 35,543 new cases, according to Reuters.

At today’s briefing, Carissa Etienne, MBBS, MSc, PAHO’s director, said intensive care occupancy rates are at 90% in Brazil and Colombia, a sign that people are still at risk for not getting care. She added that Costa Rica, Panama, and parts of Honduras are experiencing sharp rises in COVID activity, with infection numbers also rising in Bolivia and French Guiana. In a number of Caribbean locations, deaths doubled over the past week, including the Bahamas, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago.

In parts of Canada, including Newfoundland and the Northwest territories, cases have tripled, and hospitalizations are rising across the country.

Etienne said the impact of vaccine rollout in the United States has been dramatic, underscoring the importance of speeding vaccine access to other parts of the region. Only 3% of the population in Latin America has been vaccinated, compared to the nearly half of US residents who have received at least one dose.

COVID-19 Recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Partnership Strategy for the Biden Administration

March 16,

The Americas have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than any other region in the world, accounting for nearly half of the 2.6 million global deaths attributed to the disease as of early March 2021. The responses to the pandemic, including ongoing school closures and the shutdown of millions of businesses, have resulted in the largest global recession since the Great Depression. Latin American and Caribbean economies were hit hardest in 2020, with regional GDP contraction (-6.9 percent) more than three percentage points higher than the world average. Regional growth predictions for 2021 will be insufficient to return to the pre-COVID-19 levels of economic activity, lagging behind the rest of the world.

Amid ongoing social and economic disruption, inequality in the world’s most unequal region is on the rise. Millions are falling into poverty, corruption is rampant, and disinformation massively circulated. In the face of the pandemic’s multidimensional impacts, greater international cooperation and public-private partnerships (PPPs) are critical to combat the global crisis. The United Nations, for example, long called for “vaccine multilateralism” to ensure fair and equitable vaccine distribution. By December 2020, more than fifty-seven vaccine candidates were in clinical research, with several front-runners resulting from international collaboration.5 The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is another example of a global cooperative effort to end the pandemic. As of the time of writing, twenty countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region had begun to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. While a critical step, vaccination, even if it were to be efficiently administered across the population, will not solve the problems brought on or magnified by the pandemic.

The Coronavirus in Latin America

February 10, 2021AS/COA

It’s been a year since the coronavirus landed in Latin America, with the first case confirmed in São Paulo on February 26, 2020. Within a month of that date, countries across the region shuttered schools and airports, closed down businesses, and implemented a range of restrictions in an attempt to control the pandemic. Tragically, few were successful, and the region’s COVID-19 death total exceeded 600,000 by the end of January 2021.

On top of this terrible tally is a deep social and economic cost. Latin America and the Caribbean experienced, per IMF projections, a 7.4 percent contraction in 2020. Even as vaccines appear to offer a light at the end of the tunnel, 2021 began with outbreaks and fears of new variants, threatening hopes for a swift recovery.

[This article also contains information about individual countries on spread, government response (including vaccine plan, reopening plan, mitigation measures, travel and border restrictions, school closings and restrictions) and economic impact and measures.]

Where Unemployment Stands in Latin America

January 2021 – AS/COA

All in all, 23 million Latin Americans stopped trying to gain employment in the first three quarters of 2020, which means the labor force amounts to only 57.2 percent of the region’s working-age population deemed to be employed or actively looking for work. If those who dropped out decide to return to the workforce, unemployment could jump from last year’s 10.6 percent to 11.2 percent in 2021.

Categories: Articles, Latin America

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