One Big Thing: How is Latin America Dealing with the Coronavirus?
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What is it?
- As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the globe, many experts have expressed concern over the potential damage the virus could have in Latin America.
- Mexico’s response to coronavirus under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not been proactive, only closing schools this week and allowing many restaurants, businesses and gyms to remain open.
- Venezuela is in an especially precarious position as its economy is in shambles and roughly 16% of its population lives under refugee status in neighboring countries. There are already 70 confirmed cases but a full-scale outbreak would overwhelm Venezuela’s mismanaged and ineffective healthcare system. Not to mention the devastating effects the virus could have on refugee camps if an outbreak were to occur there.
Why is it important?
- The public health and economic effects of an outbreak in Latin America would be felt in North America. Many of the countries in question are economically reliant on commodity exports and tourism, making the spread of coronavirus across the entire region more likely and its effects more devastating.
- Refugee camps of Venezuelans are unfortunately common in Colombia, Ecuador and other nearby countries. In many of these make-shift camps, there are no regular medical supplies or even access to clean water, raising a host of humanitarian questions outside of the present concerns about the effects of a coronavirus outbreak in a camp.
- Reuters also reported that in Brazil, street gangs have taken matters into their own hands – enforcing coronavirus curfews due to President Jair Bolsonaro’s slow response to the outbreak.
- Mexico was proactive when it confronted the H1N1 flu (aka “swine flu”) in 2009 as detailed here in a report from the Atlantic Council, and could give guidance on how the world can deal with COVID-19. However, the current government led by President López Obrador does not seem to be taking the same proactive approaches as his predecessor as detailed in a New York Times article.
What can you do?
- Keep track of coronavirus’s spread from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center and the World Health Organization’s daily situation reports.
- If you think you have been exposed to coronavirus and develop symptoms, immediately call your healthcare provider for medical advice. You should take the appropriate steps to prevent spreading the disease to those around you.
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