Concern is mounting in Latin America and the Caribbean over the circulation of new COVID-19 variants that are driving up cases and hospitalizations while countries in the region continue to administer available vaccines supplies. Additionally, increasing cases among people 39 or younger are resulting in longer hospital stays and higher demand for healthcare services. Over the long term, one of the region's chief concerns is the pandemic's impact on mortality, as Latin American countries have suffered more excess deaths from all causes during the pandemic than any other region in the world.
The P.1 variant from Brazil, thought to be 2 to 2.5 times more transmissible than the first SARS-CoV-2 strain to spread in Latin America and the Caribbean, has rapidly spread across South America in 2021. Countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, who have confirmed the presence of P.1, have set single-day records for cases and deaths in April. Peru registered its highest single-day death toll at 433.
As Brazil shares a border with 10 countries, the greater transmissibility of P.1 variant poses a serious threat to the region. The climbing pace of new infections, coupled with challenges in rolling out vaccines in several countries, is further straining health systems and has prompted certain countries to again implement restriction measures and/or close their borders.
While Latin America and the Caribbean's death toll of more than 958,300 currently accounts for nearly 3 out of every 10 COVID-19 deaths reported around the world, the pandemic's effects on mortality in the region also include excess deaths (the number of deaths above historical averages) due to overburdened health systems' reduced capacities for treating other conditions and COVID-19 deaths not recorded at hospitals, among other factors.
Latin American countries have suffered more excess deaths relative to historical averages, with Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia currently reporting seven of the world's eight largest disparities in deaths relative to historical averages. The region as a whole accounts for 10 out of 40 countries in the world with the highest excess deaths per 1 million people