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The Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a 60-page discussion paper says Latin America has been hit hard by Covid-19, both in terms of lives and livelihoods. While the early closures kept the number of cases under control in the second quarter of 2020, they did not “stop the pandemic from wreaking havoc in the region later,” the organization said.
IMF analysis, written by Bas B. Bakker and Carlos Gonçalves, indicates that COVID-19 infection patterns have differed in much of Latin America compared to North America or the United States. Europe. “Western Europe experienced strong explosions in the spring (second quarter) of 2020, very modest infections during the summer of 2020, and further explosions in late 2020 and early 2021. Latin America mainly avoided these explosions ( which we call here ‘forest fires’), but also did not experience very modest periods of infection.
Instead, in Central and South America, the daily death toll “has gradually increased (‘smoldering’) and, in many countries, did not peak until the fall of 2020 or so. in the first half of 2021 ”, write Baker and Gonçalves.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 with restrictions had a clear correlation with declining economic activity in the region, according to the authors. “The strong recession in Latin America in the second quarter of 2020 was mainly associated with severe and binding lockdowns,” they say.
One factor to keep in mind in the regions of Latin America south of the equator (Argentina, Chile and much of Brazil) is the reversal of the winter and summer seasons due to their location. in the southern hemisphere. “A high level of mobility during the summer months can be consistent with a low level of infections. But keeping the same level of mobility as winter approaches can lead to a sharp increase in infections, ”write Bakker and Gonçalves.
With hindsight, they note: “Latin America avoided the second wave explosions in late 2020 and early 2021 that Europe and the United States saw because mobility had not increased as much as in Europe. , the proportion of the still sensitive population was lower and because it was summer in the southern hemisphere. But as winter approaches, and new more virulent variants, we are seeing new waves in many countries. Much faster vaccination will be the key to stopping the pandemic. “
The authors studied the severity of foreclosure measures and death rates to see what had the most economic impact and concluded that protecting lives comes at an economic cost in Latin America (and possibly elsewhere).
“In short, in Latin America, the harshness and daily deaths affected economic activity, but the impact of the former was quantitatively greater,” write the duo. “The strict closures in the second quarter of 2020 have caused a sharp slowdown in Latin America. Subsequently, the rigor was relaxed and the impact of the rigor on the activity decreased, leading to a recovery in the second half of 2020. But for the whole year, the impact was significant. “
Looking ahead, Bakker and Gonçalves write: “It is likely that the pandemic in Latin America will not end until collective immunity is reached. Unfortunately, they add, “in most Latin American countries it is likely that too few people have been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity” in June 2021.
Using data from early June, IMF researchers indicate that the rate of fully immunized people in the five largest countries in terms of population (Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru) ranged between 4% (Peru) and 11 % (Brazil), compared to 41% in the United States and 59% in Israel.
Bakker and Gonçalves continue: “In the spring of 2020, policies in Latin America focused on reducing the spread of COVID-19. This was usually done through lockdowns, which had significant economic costs. In addition, the lockdowns failed to stop the spread of COVID-19, which may be due to the fact that the share of the susceptible population was still too high. “
they conclude their report writing: “The results of this article suggest that stimulating the economy while containing the R-efficient [virus reproduction or spread rate] means walking a fine line by loosening rigor. The greater the number of people already infected, the more stringency can be reduced. However, if the severity is too low and mobility increases too much, the R-effective will increase above 1 [a rising rate]. ”
For government and business leaders in Latin America, the increased purchase and use of vaccines appears to offer the only path between choosing between public health and public livelihoods.