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WHO says Americas new epicentre as deaths surge in Latin America

This article is more than 12 months old

BRASILIA: The Americas have emerged as the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday, as a US study forecast deaths surging in Brazil and other Latin American countries through August.

"Now is not the time for countries to ease restrictions," Ms Carissa Etienne, WHO director for the Americas and head of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), said.

The Americas have registered more than 2.4 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 143,000 deaths from the resulting Covid-19 respiratory disease. Latin America has passed Europe and the United States in daily infections, she said.

"Our region has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic," Ms Etienne said, as other PAHO directors warned of "very tough" weeks ahead for the region.

Also of concern to WHO officials are accelerating outbreaks in Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Brazil reported the highest daily death toll in the world on Tuesday with 1,039 people killed, the fifth straight day the country has topped the list.

Brazil has now confirmed a total of 24,512 deaths and experts say under-testing means the real number is probably much higher.

With a population of 210 million people, Brazil has recorded 391,222 infections, second only to the US, which has confirmed more than 1.68 million.

A University of Washington study warned that Brazil's death toll could climb five-fold to 125,000 by early August.

The forecast from the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) came with a call for lockdowns that Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has resisted.

The current data projects Covid-19 deaths in Peru totalling nearly 20,000 by August, IHME said, indicating demand is likely to outstrip the supply of beds in intensive care units.

The latest IHME model projections see deaths rising to nearly 12,000 in Chile, 7,000 in Mexico, 6,000 in Ecuador, 5,500 in Argentina and to 4,500 in Colombia by August.

One country in the region doing relatively well against Covid-19 is Cuba, where the IHME forecasts a death toll of just 82 by August while testing continues to outpace the outbreak. - REUTERS, AFP

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