Pandemic Swells in South America


Since the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the world has tracked a pandemic that rapidly spread west, proliferating across Asia and Europe, seeding hot spots across Africa and exploding in North America. For weeks, the United States has been the global epicenter, confirming more than 1.6 million cases, and the number of deaths nearing 100,000.

And now the pandemic appears to be arriving at new milestones. China on Saturday reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases for the first time since the virus emerged. And surges of Covid-19 in several of South America’s most populous countries are raising concerns of a new front.

On Friday, Brazil overtook Russia in reporting the second-highest count of infections worldwide, reaching more than 330,000 to date. Peru and Chile rank among the hardest-hit countries in the world in terms of infections per capita, around 1 in 300. And data from Ecuador indicate that the country is suffering one of the worst outbreaks in the world.

Brazil is home to several of the world’s largest metropolises, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. While other countries around the world began sounding the alarm as the virus arrived in February and March, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, largely played down the threat, urging people to continue working and keeping businesses such as gyms and beauty salons open.

Worldwide, the pace of new infections is still climbing with over 100,000 new cases reported daily since Thursday. These numbers are among the very worst since the pandemic began, second only to a single day in April, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

The list of countries seeing sharp increases is not limited to those in Central and South America. In India, infections have surged to over 125,000 people, and Iran, which experienced one of the earliest and most significant outbreaks, is undergoing a resurgence of new cases.

Over all, infection rates are slowing in the United States, but they remain steady in about 25 states. Six — North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Maine and Wyoming — have reported rises in newly reported cases over the last 14 days, in part because some have recently ramped up testing.