What you should know
- US President Biden Assumes Office: As one of his first executive orders, President Joe Biden retracted the United States’ intent to withdraw from the World Health Organization and affirmed the organization’s fundamental role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
- WHO Meeting Read-Out: Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s Chief Medical Officer, announced at a WHO meeting that the United States would be joining the Covax program, which seeks to make COVID-19 vaccines globally available.
- PAHO Director Warns Region’s Hospitals are Near Capacity: PAHO Director Carissa Etienne sounded the alarm and urged governments to intensify public health interventions. In the last week more than 2.5 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the region.
- Venezuela Misses COVAX Deadline: Venezuela missed the deadline to join COVAX, the vaccine procurement alliance, after it was unable to produce funds to make required payments. The country must now negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to obtain COVID-19 vaccines.
- 1,584: Mexico reported 1,584 deaths on January 19, the highest single-day death toll yet. The real number of deaths is likely higher than the official count due to a lack of widespread testing.
Health + Innovation
- Chile: On January 20, Chile’s health regulator approved the emergency use of the Coronavac vaccine, developed by the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac. The country, which hosted clinical trials of the vaccine, secured 60 million doses.
- Panama: On January 20, Panama received its first 12,840 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The shipment was much smaller than expected, as Pfizer announced global distribution delays. Panama will receive 3 million doses from Pfizer at a cost of $36 million.
- Mexico: On January 20, Mexico received the first shipment of the active substance to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine from Argentina. Mexico and Argentina have an agreement with AstraZeneca to produce the vaccine for distribution in Latin America, with financial support from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s foundation. On January 19, Mexico received the latest batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Mexico will not receive additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in the coming weeks as the company modifies its Belgium factory to increase capacity.
- Peru: On January 19, Peruvian health officials announced that China’s Sinopharm Group and Pfizer Inc requested approval for the use of their COVID-19 vaccines in the Andean country. Additional authorization requests for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and the Sputnik V vaccine are expected later this week.
- Colombia: On January 19, Colombian health officials said that the country is ready to store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Bogotá has a temperature-controlled warehouse that can house up to 50 million vaccines at ultracold temperatures of -80 degrees Celsius. Similar warehouses have been set up at provincial capitals to ensure that vaccines don’t spoil in transport. Officials say mass vaccinations will begin in February.
- Brazil: On January 17, Brazilian health regulator Anvisa approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and the Coronavac vaccine for emergency use authorization. Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the national vaccination plan will begin this week. Six million doses of the Sinovac vaccine have been produced in Brazil; the government is waiting for shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a laboratory in India. Six million AstraZeneca doses were distributed across the country after the approval.
- Bolivia: On January 13, the Bolivian government announced that it had signed a contract with India’s Serum Institute for 5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. Bolivia also has a deal to purchase 5.2 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.
- Paraguay: On January 15, Paraguay became the eighth country outside Russia to approve the Sputnik V vaccine, joining Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela in the Americas.
Economies in focus
- The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2021 predicts COVID-19 ramifications – including social unrest, political fragmentation, and geopolitical tensions – will shape the global response to cyberattacks, weapons of mass destruction, and climate change.
- The IMF approved a $2.7 billion line of credit to Panama to temper the pandemic’s economic impact.
- Mexican Economy Secretary Tatiana Clouthier unveiled the country’s reactivation plan focused on four key areas: internal market, employment, and firms; strengthening and enabling investment; international trade; and regionalization and specific sectors. The government will prioritize industrial and technology policies, innovative sectors, and traditional export industries such as footwear, textiles, and agriculture.
- The World Bank lent $30 million to Saint Lucia to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19. The tourism-dependent country’s economy contracted by 18 percent in 2020.
Quarantine + Travel Restrictions
Many countries unveiled new travel restrictions as the new COVID-19 variant is identified in over 60 countries.
Quarantine and Reopening Plans
- Bogotá Mayor Claudia López extended the city’s nightly curfew until January 28 and announced a total restriction of movement from Friday, January 22 until Monday, January 25.
- Peru further reduced store capacities, closed beaches, and restricted movement in several regions in a focused attempt to control the spread of COVID-19. The measures will remain in effect until January 13.
International Travel Restrictions
- Colombia will keep its land and river borders closed until March 1. The borders have been closed since March 14, 2020.
- Peru suspended flights from Europe and South Africa from January 15 until January 31, including banning passengers who had a layover in the specified countries within the last 14 days, citing fears of the new virus strain.
- Hotels, airlines, and travel agencies announced that they would provide rapid COVID-19 tests for American tourists who visit the Mexican Caribbean or the Dominican Republic to comply with US re-entry requirements.
- Venezuela resumed flights to Panama and the Dominican Republic after it suspended flights with the countries last month due to COVID-19 concerns.
In Focus: Brazil Begins Mass Vaccination Campaign
- With the highest number of cases (8.5 million) and the third highest prevalence rate in the region, Brazil is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals are running out of oxygen in the state of Amazonas and two new strains of COVID-19 have been reported in the country. Brazilian regulators have approved AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac vaccines, offering a glimmer of hope. While Brazil formally began its mass vaccination campaign this week, the country faces many challenges.
- Vaccine availability will be the first hurdle. The country has produced 6 million vaccines for its population of 212 billion. In addition to requesting federal support, several provinces have negotiated bilateral contracts with pharmaceutical companies and are now awaiting shipments.
- The country must also overcome strong logistical challenges to reach remote populations spread out throughout a country roughly the same size of the United States. Moody’s has already warned that continued delays in the country’s vaccination strategy will hinder Brazil’s economic recovery; the Brazilian economy is only expected to grow 3 percent in 2021.
- In addition to these challenges, vaccine skepticism fanned by conspiracy theories may further complicate vaccine rollouts.
By the numbers
- Cases by country: Brazil (8,575,742) #3 worldwide, Colombia (1,939,071) #11 worldwide, Argentina (1,819, 560) #12 worldwide, Mexico (1,668,396) #13 worldwide, Peru (1,073,214) #18 worldwide, Chile (680,740) #25 worldwide, Panama (301,534) #41 worldwide, Ecuador (232,568) #46 worldwide, Dominican Republic (198,123) #52 worldwide, Bolivia (191,090) #54 worldwide, Source: worldometers.info
- Prevalence rate (total cases per million people: Panama (69,285) #9 worldwide, Aruba (60,953) #15 worldwide, Brazil (40,187) #33 worldwide, Argentina (40,507) #34 worldwide, Colombia (37,886) #40 worldwide, Costa Rica (36,501) #44 worldwide, Chile (35,443) #48 worldwide, Peru (32,302) #51 worldwide, Belize (28,923) #58 worldwide, Saint Martin (27,570) #61 worldwide, Source: worldometers.info
- Deaths per capita (deaths per million people): Peru (1,175) #16 worldwide, Panama (1,118) #19 worldwide, Mexico (1,101) #20 worldwide, Argentina (1,014) #25 worldwide, Brazil (991) #26 worldwide, Colombia (965) #27 worldwide, Chile (916) #30 worldwide, Bolivia (827) #34 worldwide, Ecuador (808) #36 worldwide, Belize (705) #40 worldwide, Source: worldometers.info