COVID-19: Uruguay, from model to dunce

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Uruguay, considered for months as a model for managing the coronavirus pandemic, is breaking records of contaminations and deaths, recording in the last 14 days the highest global rate of contaminations per 100,000 inhabitants.

• Read also: All the developments of the pandemic

On Monday, the country of 3.5 million people recorded a record 71 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to government statistics.

Since the appearance of a first case in March 2020, 1,533 deaths have been recorded, of which nearly 90% since January and only a third since April 1.

According to AFP’s tally established on the basis of official figures, during the last 14 days Uruguay has recorded nearly 1,370 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest rate in the world for this period.

Health authorities have identified the presence of the Brazilian variant P1 in the country which shares its border with the South American giant where the epidemic has been out of control for weeks.

The government of conservative Luis Lacalle Pou has never applied a curfew or strict containment measure, despite calls from health experts and the opposition.

The head of state recently insisted at a press conference on the individual responsibility of citizens. “It’s a question of principle,” he said.

Bars, restaurants and shops remain open. However, schools, performance venues and non-essential public services were closed.

The pressure on the healthcare system, especially intensive care units, is steadily increasing. The occupancy rate of intensive care units reached 77% on Monday, according to the Uruguayan society of intensive medicine (Sumi),

Uruguay was the last country in South America to launch its vaccination campaign in March. Currently, 25.73% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine and 6% both doses.

The country overwhelmingly administers the Coronavac vaccine, from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac, whose efficacy is around 50% according to clinical trials.

The country had successfully contained the coronavirus pandemic until the end of 2019 by quickly closing its borders, suspending classes and putting in place an effective test-trace-isolate system.

A call for voluntary confinement had also been widely followed in the first weeks.