ASUNCION (Reuters) – Latin America broke through 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, a Reuters tally showed, underscoring that the region is the area of the world hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus was initially slower to reach Latin America – home to about 640 million people – than much of the world. But health experts say it has been hard to control the virus due to the region’s poverty and densely packed cities.
The more than 10,000 new cases reported by Colombia’s health ministry on Monday pushed the region past the 5 million mark, a day after the Andean nation reported a record 11,470 cases.
Latin America has now topped 200,000 deaths. Brazil’s total approached 96,000 on Monday and Mexico surpassed 48,000. The two countries have the world’s second and third highest death tolls, after the United States.
North America is the region with the second highest number of cases, with 4.8 million infections, according to a Reuters tally, followed by Europe and Asia, which have around 3 million infections each.
Latin America is particularly vulnerable to the virus due to high levels of poverty, urbanization and labor informality, according to a July 30 report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Pan American Health Organization.
More than 100 million people across Latin America and the Caribbean live in slums, according to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme. Many have jobs in the informal sector with little in the way of a social safety net and have continued to work throughout the pandemic.
“The pandemic has become an precedented economic and social crisis and, if urgent measures are not taken, it could transform into a food, humanitarian, and political crisis,” the report warned.
Latin America has also a high death rate from the virus, likely due to a number of factors, including high levels of underlying conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
(Reporting by Daniela Desantis in Asuncion and Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Writing by Adam Jourdan and Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Leslie Adler)