Latin American countries are bracing for difficult weeks ahead as the disease spreads rapidly across the region, even as much of the world exit lockdowns that have wrecked economies and stripped millions of their jobs.
In Brazil — the epicenter of South America’s outbreak with nearly 500,000 confirmed cases, lagging only behind the United States — disagreement among leaders over lockdown measures has hampered efforts to slow the virus as the number of fatalities in the country nears 30,000.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who fears the economic fallout from stay-at-home measures will be worse than the virus, has berated governors and mayors for imposing what he calls “the tyranny of total quarantine.”
As the global death toll from the pandemic surpassed 368,000, US President Donald Trump’s decision to permanently cut funding to the World Health Organization has been broadly criticized.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide is more than six million, according to an AFP tally.
“Now is the time for enhanced cooperation and common solutions,” the European Union said in a statement, adding: “Actions that weaken international results must be avoided.”
Trump initially suspended funding to the WHO last month, accusing it of not doing enough to curb the early spread of the virus and being too lenient with China, where COVID-19 emerged late last year.
On Friday he moved to make that decision permanent in a major
blow to the agency. The US is the WHO’s biggest contributor, supplying $400 million last year.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the “disappointing” decision was a setback for global health, while Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to attend an in-person G7 summit that Trump had suggested he would host.
Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet medical journal, said it was “madness and terrifying both at the same time.”