Americas remain hardest-hit region as pandemic enters 3rd year

Americas Desk, Dec 31 (EFE).- The Americas are ending 2021 the same way they ended 2020, as the region most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. But the panorama is not entirely negative thanks to vaccination rates in Chile and Cuba that rival those of European countries.

The nations extending from the Bering Strait to the Straits of Magellan together account for 36 percent of the 5.4 million confirmed infections and 44 percent of the 2.4 million deaths, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Those percentages have been maintained during all of 2021, confirming the Americas as the region with the greatest impact,” Pedro Porrino, Americas coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Four of the 10 hardest-hit countries measured by fatalities are in the Americas, led by the United States, where Covid-19 has claimed more than 824,000 lives.

Brazil, with nearly 620,000 deaths, is second in the world, while Mexico (299,000) has the fourth spot and Peru (202,000) ranks sixth.

In terms of cases, the US is again No. 1, with 54.3 million, and Brazil has the third-highest total, 22.6 million.

Date compiled by the Inter-American Development Bank show that Latin America has a coronavirus mortality rate of 245 deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants, compared with a global median of 71 per 100,000.

Amid a worldwide spike due to the much more contagious – yet apparently less deadly – Omicron variant of the virus, the Americas continue to experience disproportionally greater increases in infections.

“What can be expected with respect to Omicron is that we begin to see now, every week, an exponential rise in cases and a clear upward tendency in the epidemiological curves, but unaccompanied by a moment of greater mortality,” Porrino said.

Health authorities in the Americas reported 39 percent of the 4.9 million new cases detected worldwide during the week of Dec. 20-26, the largest weekly total in more than six months.

The US, Canada and Argentina have each set daily records for new Covid-19 cases during the last week, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional affiliate of the WHO.

As of Dec. 29, PAHO said, the nations of the region have administered more than 1.45 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine and 57 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean were fully vaccinated.

While the US (498 million doses), Brazil (320 million) and Mexico (148 million) represent 66 percent of the total, those three countries trail behind others in the region in vaccination rates.

Cuba, with more than 85 percent vaccinated, and Chile – approaching 86 percent – are in the vanguard not only regionally but globally. Both are among the top four in the world.

Nearly 77 percent of eligible Uruguayans are vaccinated and the rate in Argentina stands at 71 percent.

Both the Red Cross and the WHO warn of the need for action to remedy the low levels of vaccination in Caribbean nations, notably Jamaica, where under 23 percent of people are fully vaccinated, and Haiti, which has inoculated less than 1 percent of its population.

“We will watch the evolution of the cases, which are already rising, while deaths remain stable and even with a downward tendency, but we must insist on vaccination, that it really reaches everyone during what we consider the largest wave of contagion since the start of the pandemic,” Porrino said. EFE dmt/dr

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