Uruguay and Paraguay have achieved a near-total victory against the coronavirus — bucking a regional trend as Latin America becomes the new epicenter of the global pandemic, according to a new report.
Uruguay has reported 902 coronavirus cases and 26 deaths, and Paraguay has totaled 1,528 cases and only 13 deaths, according to the latest Johns Hopkins University data.
Both countries share porous land borders with Brazil, where nearly 1.9 million have been infected and 53,830 people have died.
Combined coronavirus-related deaths in 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries surged past 100,000 this week.
Uruguay — known as a progressive enclave with extensive public health coverage and almost 10 percent access to running water — is now able to start opening its schools and shopping malls, albeit with social distancing, face masks and ongoing testing in place, according to The Guardian.
“The key to our success has been a quick response detecting and isolating cases,” Rafael Radi, one of the government’s chief COVID-19 advisers, told the outlet.
Uruguay is fourth worldwide, behind New Zealand, Australia and Thailand, on the number of tests conducted per new confirmed case — a whopping 1,610, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the US and UK conduct only 52 and 21 tests respectively, the outlet reported.
Instead of using contact tracing alone, Uruguay sends out special teams to test random city blocks and critical job sectors including construction workers, according to the report.
It has tested about 57,000 people, about 1.6 percent of its 3.5 million population.
However, Radi said he is most concerned about the country’s “red-hot” northern border with Brazil.
“Brazil is the great sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” he told The Guardian. “Our greatest concern is the city of Rivera, where the border is only an imaginary line down the middle of an avenue.”
Paraguay was one of the first countries in the region to implement containment measures after only the second coronavirus case on March 10. The country has since progressed to phase three of its four-stage reopening plan.
“Closing the borders, social distancing and an initial lockdown phase were successful when we analyze the data,” Dr. Antonio Arbo, an epidemiologist and former health minister, told The Guardian.
But criticism of president Mario Abdo Benítez’s administration has centered around multiple scandals involving the misuse of some of the funds designated to handle the crisis, according to the report.
Although the country has done exceptionally well so far, it’s still in a vulnerable position, according to Dr. Carlos Schaerer, a medical association leader.
“In circumstances in which unselfishness should come first and corruption should be left to one side, corruption has surged even more strongly,” Schaerer told The Guardian. “If there is an explosion of the disease, we’re going to be helpless because we aren’t prepared.”