Health care systems across Latin America risk being overwhelmed by the coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, as the death toll from the disease in hard-hit Brazil nears 30,000.
The warning from the global health body came as a sister UN agency issued new guidelines for pandemic-hit airlines that reveal what flying might look like when passenger planes take to the skies again in earnest.
The march of the illness across the Americas comes as other parts of the world return to relative normality after weeks of restrictions on daily life that have wrecked economies and left millions jobless.
Schools, swimming pools, pubs and tourist sites have begun to throw open their doors again in Europe as the continent continues easing lockdowns despite the threat of a second wave of infections. The pandemic has now killed more than 377,000 people and infected at least 6.3 million since erupting in China in late 2019. Four of the 10 countries across the globe with the greatest number of new Covid-19 cases on Monday were in Latin America, WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said. Brazil, Peru and Chile are suffering the highest daily increases but numbers are also on the rise in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Haiti.
The region has logged one million cases and recorded more than 50,000 deaths, with Brazil having more than half of cases and close to 60% of fatalities.
The mayor of Rio de Janeiro said on Monday however that the popular tourist city would start gradually easing lockdown measures from Tuesday, beginning with the reopening of places of worship and water sports. Ryan warned that the region faces a tough battle in the weeks ahead. “I don’t believe we have reached the peak in that transmission and, at this point, I cannot predict when we will,” he said.
In Europe, however, from Russia to France, Italy and Britain, countries have started to emerge from lockdowns, cautiously adopting a post-pandemic version of normal.
Bars began to serve again in Finland and Norway – with social distancing restrictions or shortened hours in place – while some schools in Britain and Greece opened their doors. Greece opened some hotels, schools, pools and tattoo parlours, while Italy reopened the Colosseum, although only to Italians.