Virus spread 'still accelerating' in Brazil, Peru, Chile – WHO

With about 730,000 cases and more than 39,500 deaths from COVID-19 reported as of May 25, Latin America outpaces Europe and the United States in the number of daily infections

DISINFECT. In this file photo taken on April 18, 2020 a volunteer walks past a mural of the Brazilian flag as he disinfects an area at the Babilonia favela, in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Carl de Souza/AFP

WASHINGTON DC, USA – International health authorities expressed concern Tuesday, May 26, over signs the spread of the new coronavirus is still accelerating in Brazil, Peru and Chile.

"In South America, we are particularly concerned that the number of new cases reported last week in Brazil was the highest for a seven-day period, since the outbreak began," said Carissa Etienne, director of the Washington-based Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

"Both Peru and Chile are also reporting a high incidence, a sign that transmission is still accelerating in these countries," she said at a weekly briefing.

The Pan American Health Organization, which serves as the regional office for the World Health Organization, has been monitoring the pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean.

With about 730,000 cases – out of 5 million globally – and more than 39,500 deaths from COVID-19 reported as of May 25, Latin America has outpaced Europe and the United States in the number of daily infections.

The region is now "no doubt" the epicenter of the pandemic, Etienne said during the PAHO weekly briefing.

She called for countries to keep up their fight to curb the spread of infections, which experts estimate far exceed the official count.

"For most countries in the Americas, now is not the time to relax restrictions or scale back preventive strategies," she said.

The PAHO recommended a combination of social distancing measures, testing and health system preparations to combat the coronavirus, which was declared a pandemic on March 11 after it appeared in China late last year.

Etienne pointed to parts of the world that have seen their outbreaks slow as examples for how American countries could move forward.

"We have learned from other regions what works and what doesn’t, and we must continue to apply this knowledge to our context," she said.

And she warned that the prevelence of pre-existing conditions – such as diabetes – in the Western Hemisphere could make coronavirus even more deadly in the region.

Etienne said Brazil's daily COVID-19 death toll is expected to peak at around 1,020 a day by June 22, citing the IHME model from the University of Washington in the United States.

The model predicted two weeks ago that Brazil would see 88,305 coronavirus deaths by August 4, with a range between 30,302 deaths and 193,786 deaths possible.

With nearly 375,000 cases, Brazil now has the world's biggest coronavirus caseload after the United States. It has had 23,473 deaths, according to a count by AFP. –