Around the world, those killed by the epidemic as of August 10 approached three-quarters of a billion. Fatalities in our own hemisphere account for more than half grim total, or an estimated 380 million — and rising. The U.S. still has the world’s most COVID-19 fatalities, at least 163,000.
From Canada to Chile, total COVID-19 fatalities keep growing daily. The latest reports say there so far have been 727,000 coronavirus deaths worldwide.
IN OUR OWN HEMISPHERE, THE URGENTLY NEEDY HOTSPOTS
Brazil — The death toll is leaping toward a sad milestone, 10,000 coronavirus fatalities. According to the Associated Press, five months after the first reported case, Brazil, with a population of 210 million, still is suffering more than 100 COVID-19 fatalities daily. As in many systems, AP reports, this is likely an undercount in the second most populous nation in our hemisphere.
In a tribute to the victims, a non-government private group placed 1,000 black crosses and 1,000 red balloons stretching as far as the eye could see on the Copacabana Beach on August 8.
AP reports that President Jair Bolsonaro has been a constant skeptic about the seriousness of COVID-19, although he admitted recently that he himself had contracted it. He advocated a lifting of restrictions imposed by state governors trying to fight it. The Brazilian president frequently mingled in crowds, according to AP, sometimes without a mask.
“I regret all the deaths,” Mr. Bolonsaro said recently. “But we’re going to find a way out of that,” the President wrote August 6 on Facebook.
Mexico — Mexico received a $3 million donation from the United States to help fight COVID-19, a Mexican health official said on August 7. Our neighbor to the south has a population of 127 million, and officials there, according to U.S. News and World Report, said that the real number of cases is likely “significantly higher.”
Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gateau said the U.S. donation would be used for urgently-needed supplies, tests, and research. However, he added: “The pandemic will be “prolonged.”
Peru — Peru’s new President Martin Vizcarra said he’ll pick his second cabinet in less than a month after unexpectedly losing a congressional vote of confidence in what Bloomberg News termed “a stinging rejection” of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Vizcarra, in a televised address to the nation, said that while he accepted the decision of Congress, “it was disappointing, given that the country was in the middle of a devastating health crisis.” It’s the first time, Bloomberg News reported, that the Congress has refused to back a newly-appointed Peruvian president.
Mr. Vizcarra, in response, accused legislators of voting to defend “personal interests and vowed to continue with a higher education reform opposed by some political parties. Meanwhile, Peru’s Prime Minister Pedro Cateriano, a veteran politician appointed by the president three weeks ago, said the government had made mistakes in fighting the virus and pledged to reorganize the public health system.
Chile — The hemisphere’s southernmost country of 19 million inhabitants had recorded 10,011 coronavirus deaths as of August 8, including 53 the preceding day. Chile, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency, remains under a state of emergency, and its borders have been closed, in-person classes in schools have been suspended, and non-essential activity severely limited. The country has outlined a plan to gradually reactivate the economy, assuming a decline in new cases.
Canada — The COVID-19 death toll is just under 9, 000. Health experts and political leaders there, according to the Reuters News Agency, fear that sacrifices Canadians have already made could be imperiled as the economy moves to re-open schools, especially in densely populated central Canada and as the neighboring U.S. struggles to contain the virus. “For months,” Reuter reports, “Canadians have followed strict public health rules on residents’ movement around the country. The ten Canadian provinces quickly shut down large parts of the economy, ramped up testing, and expanded space in hospitals and intensive care units.”
Cuba — Reuters says that a record 93 cases of COVID-19 were reported in a single day on August 8. Most of the surge so far reported have been in the capital city, Havana, and neighboring Artemise Province. Although restrictions had earlier been lifted, in those cities, lockdowns have been re-imposed in restaurants, bars, and beaches in the capital region.
Cuban Health Minister Jose Angel Portal said: “We are entering a new epidemiological outbreak that puts our entire population at risk.” Cuba has reported just under 3,000 cases and 88 deaths to date.
PRINCIPAL INGREDIENTS OF THE CRISIS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
In the September/October edition of Foreign Affairs magazine being released in full August 11, nationally known U.S. economists Carmen Reinhart and her husband Vincent sum up the situation:
“In the developing countries, where safety nets are underdeveloped or non-existent, the decline in living standards will take place mostly in the poorest segments of society. The United Nations has recently warned that the world is facing the worst food crisis in 50 years. In the poorest countries, food accounts for anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of consumption-related expenditures.”
That’s why Washington’s decision to give a $3 million donation to Mexico for food relief is a symbolic but promising start. Might it help pave the way for coordinated international additional assistance by the U.S., European Union, and Japan to ease an unprecedented global crisis?
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More