WHO warns Latin America reopening too soon amid COVID-19 risk

Regional director Carissa Etienne notes rising death rates in parts of Mexico, similar trends in Ecuador and Costa Rica.

Mexico coronavirus testing
Men get tested for COVID-19 aboard a trajinera, one of the colorful wooden boats popular with tourists and revellers, in the Xochimilco district of Mexico City [File: Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo]

Latin America has started to resume normal social and public life at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic still requires major control interventions, World Health Organization Regional Director Carissa Etienne said on Wednesday.

Coronavirus cases in Colombia’s border area with Venezuela have increased tenfold in the last two weeks, Etienne said in a virtual briefing from Washington with other Pan American Health Organization directors.

Death rates are climbing in parts of Mexico, and similar trends are seen in Ecuador, Costa Rica and Bolivia, with similar patterns also emerging in areas of Argentina, she said.

“Although the entire world is racing to develop new tools to prevent and cure COVID-19, a safe and effective vaccine that can be manufactured and delivered at scale is not around the corner,” Etienne warned.

“We must be clear that opening up too early gives this virus more room to spread and puts our populations at greater risk. Look no further than Europe,” she said.

Mexico outbreak: Alarming mortality rates among health workers

Etienne said governments must monitor travel very carefully because reopening to tourism can lead to setbacks. That has happened in the Caribbean, where several countries that had virtually no cases have experienced spikes as tourism resumed.

According to a Reuters tally, Latin America has recorded around 8.4 million coronavirus cases, and over 314,000 deaths, both figures being the highest of any region.

Source: Reuters