Apr 23, 2020 - Health

Brazil and Ecuador emerge as Latin America's coronavirus epicenters

Rows and rows of crosses in a dirt field
A burial at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, in the Amazon forest in Brazil, on April 22. Photo: Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil and Ecuador have become coronavirus epicenters in Latin America, as prolonged lapses in tracking and testing have led to severely undercounted death tolls, the Washington Post and the New York Times report.

Where it stands: Brazil's health minister, appointed by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro last week, said the government plans to buy 46 million tests, but has not detailed when they will arrive or be distributed, per the Post. Authorities in Ecuador, including the country's president, believe the national death toll is much higher than currently reported.

  • In Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and main port, "forensic police have been working around the clock to collect and account" for the dead as the country struggles to find new places to bury bodies, the Times reports.
  • In Brazil, hospitalized patients and people dying in their homes aren’t being tested for COVID-19, the Post reports. Some medical professionals are also being tested and trenches for mass graves are newly dug in Brasilia, the country's capital city, per the Post.

What they're saying: "As a researcher, I look at the data and make analyses for the government," Domingos Alves, a data scientist at the University of São Paulo, told the Post. "But as a citizen, I'm frustrated. The government is trying to control the epidemic without the elements of how to control it because they don’t know how serious it is."

  • "It will get much worse. There will be lines at the hospitals. There will be lines at the cemeteries. The next few weeks will be very dark," he said.

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