Colombians will soon be able to go to the movies without wearing face masks. Chile will open its borders for the first time in two years next week. The epidemic has been proclaimed over by Mexico’s president. Thousands of people attended Carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro barely two months after the world-famous celebration was postponed to prevent COVID-19 infections.
Even as coronavirus cases rise half a world away in China, prompting authorities there to impose new restrictions, low infection rates in Latin America have led to the lifting of restrictions on mass gatherings, the lifting of some travel requirements, and the scrapping of two-year-old mask mandates.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the area, with countries like Brazil and Peru reporting some of the worst death rates in the world. However, in most regions, cases and fatalities declined to levels similar to those recorded in the first two months of the epidemic this month.
Vaccination initiatives and months of exposure to multiple strains of the virus, according to some epidemiologists, have helped the region’s residents fight future waves of transmission.
“What we appear to be witnessing is that even while the virus is still spreading, many people are not becoming ill or exhibiting symptoms,” said Fernando de la Hoz, an epidemiology professor at Colombia’s National University in Bogota.
The coronavirus wreaked havoc on Latin American countries last year, with the Delta and Gamma versions — the latter of which arose in Brazil — infecting millions and killing tens of thousands.
Brazil topped 500,000 fatalities in June, and seven South American countries were among the top ten countries with the highest mortality rates per capita in the world.
According to statistics gathered by Statista, a market research organization, Peru is currently the only Latin American country with that unfortunate distinction. Even in Peru, however, COVID- From more than 200 a day in February to approximately 20 by the end of April, the number of deaths has dropped considerably. According to the Ministry of Health, Coronavirus intensive care units were just 11 percent full at the beginning of this month, down from a year earlier.
In most of the area, the BA.2 form of the virus, which spread fast across China, the United States, and other European nations in March, has had little impact.
Cases in Colombia have dropped from 35,000 per day in mid-January, when the omicron variety was at its height, to roughly 250 per day now. According to the Pan American Health Organization, daily mortality are in the single digits, while coronavirus patients occupied just 177 of a total of 10,700 ICU beds as of the first week of April.
“We don’t expect that tsunami from China to reach here since our plan differs from theirs,” Martha Luca Ospina, Colombia’s National Health Institute head, told radio station La FM earlier this month.
“They cut off communication with the outside world as part of their zero Covid approach,” Ospina explained, “while we progressively opened up and administered other kinds of vaccinations that resulted in an intriguing combination of protection.”
Most nations in the area have achieved the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccination 70% of their populations with at least two doses of vaccine.
As the number of cases and hospitalizations decreases, so do numerous societal constraints.
Many states have lifted mask bans and other restrictions, and Brazil’s federal government has canceled a 2020 law declaring the epidemic a health emergency.
Last weekend, masks were not needed at Rio’s Carnival parade site, the Sambadrome, which can host over 60,000 people. Vaccination cards were meant to be a requirement for admittance, but some got through without them. The celebrations were shifted to an April holiday after being suspended in February.
Starting May 1, masks will no longer be required in shopping malls, theatres, and other major indoor venues in cities with vaccination rates of at least 70%, according to Colombia’s authorities.
In March, Argentina eliminated all travel restrictions, including those for unvaccinated persons, and no masks are required in any locations in the capital, Buenos Aires.
El Salvador, in Central America, stopped mandating them in public venues on April 21st.
Masks are no longer required in most parts of Mexico, where daily incidences have decreased from 40,000 in late January to 1,000 in mid-April. The country has entered a “new stage,” according to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in which the virus will have seasonal changes.
Infections are on the rise in at least one location: After mask regulations and attendance limitations in public venues were relaxed on March 10, cases reappeared in Puerto Rico, leading the island’s government to enforce masks at big gatherings once more this month.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the island topped 3,000 cases per day this week, up from approximately 200 per day during the first week of March.
Additional mutations and outbreaks are still possible in the coming months, according to Iván Daro Vélez, an infectious disease specialist at Colombia’s University of Antioquia, and governments in the region may need to administer new rounds of vaccines or take other measures.
He went on to say, “This virus is really unpredictable.” “Governments will have to keep a careful eye on its actions and take necessary action.”