AFP/Rio de Janeiro
Healthcare systems across Latin America risk being overwhelmed by the coronavirus, the World Health Organisation 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 6.3mn since erupting in China in late 2019.
Four of the 10 countries across the globe with the greatest number of new Covid-19 cases were in Latin America, WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.
Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico are suffering the highest daily increases but numbers are also on the rise in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Haiti.
More than 100,000 people have already contracted the coronavirus in Chile, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US. More than 1,100 people are reported to have died in the South American country after being infected with the virus.
Recently there have been protests in Chile. To stop the virus from spreading, the greater Santiago area has been in quarantine for weeks.
In Chile, the medical association had warned a few days ago about the onslaught on hospitals that means almost all intensive care beds are occupied.
“Countries are having to work very, very hard to both understand the scale of infection but also health systems are beginning to come under pressure,” said Ryan.
The region has logged 1mn cases and recorded more than 50,000 deaths, with Brazil accounting for more than half of those cases and close to 60% of the fatalities.
Popular tourist city Rio de Janeiro, however, began gradually easing lockdown measures from yesterday, beginning with the reopening of places of worship and water sports.
Mexico began reopening on Monday, reactivating the automotive industry, mining and construction even as the country recorded more than virus 10,000 deaths.
Ryan warned that the region faces a tough battle in the weeks ahead.
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