BRASILIA (Reuters) -Deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean from COVID-19 topped 500,000 on Tuesday and cases soared above 15 million, according to a tally of figures in government reports, as authorities worried that holiday festivities could bring more infections.
More than a third of the deaths occurred in Brazil, according to the Reuters tally, Latin America’s largest country, which separately reported its worst daily death toll from the novel coronavirus since Sept. 15.
More than a quarter of Latin America’s deaths were in Mexico, which, like Brazil, has struggled with a new wave of infections, with rising hospitalizations forcing Mexico City and four states into semi-lockdowns.
Mexico on Tuesday reported 990 more fatalities, one of its highest daily increases, bringing the death toll to 123,845. The tally of infections rose to 1,401,529 as authorities logged another 12,099 cases.
Regional health authorities have expressed concern about the impact of year-end celebrations on health systems that were stretched to the limit in mid-2020.
Mexico City is working to boost hospital capacity for coronavirus patients, just as federal data on Tuesday showed that beds with ventilators in the capital were 85% occupied while remaining beds were 89% full.
Brazil recorded 58,718 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 1,111 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
Brazil has registered nearly 7.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 192,681, according to ministry data.
Efforts to roll out new vaccines in countries including Mexico, Chile and Argentina have provided a glimmer of hope for some parts of the region but Brazil and several other Latin American countries have struggled to get such efforts underway.
In Mexico, 18,529 healthcare workers were inoculated after Pfizer delivered its first vaccine shipment last week, and officials hope a vaccine from CanSino Biologics will be available next month.
(Reporting by Jake Spring and Javier Lopez de Lerida; Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico CityEditing by Sam Holmes, Robert Birsel)