Long lines at testing centers, cancellation of New Year’s parties and the reappearance of the open-air mask account for the impact of the omicron variant in Latin America, where more and more countries exceed their record of new daily infections since the pandemic began.
The Pan American Health Organization warned this week that although the variant is less aggressive than its predecessors, the increase in its circulation in several countries in the region “together with greater personal contact due to the holiday and vacation season can cause a increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks ”.
However, most governments do not seem willing to reinstate the quarantines that seriously affected their economies – according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) regional GDP fell 6.8% in 2020 – and mental health of their populations. Especially those in the southern hemisphere, where the summer break heralds a peak resort season after two years.
On the contrary, they have implemented health passes to promote vaccination and even some governments shortened the isolation periods of vaccinated people infected or who have been in close contact with a positive case with the aim that the new wave does not get in the way. Economic recovery.
This week it exceeded 50,000 cases a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic on the eve of the New Year, when millions of people mobilize across the country to reunite with their families or start their vacations.
The Argentine government, which in 2020 imposed one of the longest lockdowns in the world, reduced the isolation of close contacts of positive cases that are asymptomatic and have the full vaccination scheme from ten to five days. In turn, those infected who are immunized must remain isolated for seven days instead of the ten previously required.
From January 1, Argentina will require those over 13 years of age a health pass to enter discos, party halls, events with more than 1,000 people in open spaces and group trips.
The country quintupled daily cases in the last five days to 6,149, the peak of the entire pandemic. The health authorities have not confirmed the presence of omicron in the country, although “the number of infections makes us think that it may already be there”, admitted the doctor Wilfredo Anzoátegui, president of the Medical College of Santa Cruz, the most populated region of the country and which accounts for 71% of new cases.
The government of Luis Arce canceled the New Year’s Eve parties and issued a decree that requires showing the vaccination certificate before entering public and private places where there is an agglomeration of people since January 1.
The first country in Latin America to impose mandatory vaccination and that has more than half of its population with two doses, suspended the return to classes and limited the capacity between 75% and 50% in public entities and places with high attendance such as restaurants, churches and cinemas. In addition, the traditional New Year’s Eve puppet burning was suspended and mass events such as processions and popular dances and the opening of bars and discos were prohibited.
Colombians, on the other hand, will celebrate the arrival of 2022 without capacity and it is expected that colleges and universities will fully return to the presence. The government has focused on promoting vaccination, since only 28% of the population has the complete scheme.
The country banned the use of beaches, lakes, rivers, lagoons and public swimming pools as a measure to avoid contagion on December 31 and January 1.
Angélica del Águila, a seller of yellow clothes that Peruvians buy to bring luck in the New Year, said she is uncertain about the effects of the virus on the economy and education despite the fact that 65% of her compatriots have two doses.
In Mexico City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the country, they insist that the increase in positives has not been accompanied by greater hospitalizations. But in order to avoid large crowds, the authorities closed the Christmas festival that had opened in the Zócalo and canceled the New Year’s concert.
Meanwhile, in the streets and beaches of Mexico, life seems to go on as if nothing had happened, although with face masks as a distinctive element.
It exceeded 600,000 deaths from coronavirus, it maintains a downward trend in new cases, according to PAHO, although omicron is already circulating in several states.
One of the countries with the highest vaccination rate – 93% of adults completed the scheme – infections are kept under control, with a daily average of 1,150 cases. But the government is concerned about what is happening in neighboring Argentina and Bolivia, which is why it postponed the reopening of five land border crossings, two in the north and three in the south, scheduled for January 4.
At the same time, to encourage the inoculation of about 1.6 million laggards who do not have the third dose, the authorities ordered that their mobility passes, necessary for almost all public activities, will be blocked from January 1.
The arrival of omicron and the speed of its spread forced the authorities to increase sanitary control measures, especially of international travelers, imposing the presentation of a complete vaccination passport and a negative PCR result as of January 5.
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