Covid-19 in Latin America: Slow start but peak not yet reached

GlobalData Healthcare 11 June 2020 (Last Updated June 11th, 2020 10:34)
Covid-19 in Latin America: Slow start but peak not yet reached

During the last month, Brazil has steadily climbed the chart of the top ten countries with the highest total coronavirus (Covid-19) cases, now ranking number two just behind the US. Other countries in Latin America are also showing dangerous trends of increasing Covid-19 cases. Peru, Chile and Mexico are now ranked numbers ten, 13 and 14 respectively. GlobalData’s epidemiology forecasts show that these markets have not reached a peak and it is likely that the Covid-19 outbreak will continue to worsen in Latin America.

GlobalData has four peak transmission models developed to help predict when a country might experience peak transmission and recovery. High transmission, moderate transmission and low transmission models were developed during the early months of the outbreak using reported case data from China and western markets. However, as the pandemic spread across the world, it became increasingly evident that different regions experience unique outbreak trajectories. The four Latin American countries analysed here do not follow the same trajectory as China, US or Western European markets. These four countries have tended to have slower starts with the highest recorded daily cases not occurring until three months after the first local transmission (assumed to be when 100 cases were reported).

Several factors could have contributed to the slow start in Latin American countries. First, testing capabilities may not be sufficiently developed in these markets during the early weeks to detect cases. Second, geographical distance from China, where the virus first originated, may have lessened direct introductions. Indeed, the presumed first cases of confirmed Covid-19 in Brazil, Peru and Mexico had travelled from Europe. Patient zero in Chile was a traveller from Southeast Asia, and the next two confirmed cases had a travel history to Europe. Lastly, while the science is still speculative, the warm weather in South America in February and March may have slowed the transmission of respiratory infections early on.

When ranking countries globally by the rate of infection (new cases per one million population), Latin American countries are not at the top. Panama, the Latin American country with the highest rate (94 cases per one million population), is far behind the Middle Eastern countries (144–900 cases per one million population). Brazil, the next highest in Latin America (55 cases per one million population), is below Sweden (78 cases per one million population) and Russia (61 cases per one million population). However, the disease trajectories of Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico show that they have not yet reached the peak (see Figures 1, 2, 3, 4).

The number of new cases will continue to increase in these markets. There are also concerns about the accuracy of confirmed case count as alternative measures such as excess mortality and news stories of over-flowing morgues show that official case counts are likely to be underestimations. Even if peaks are reached this week as signified by the running average model, it will take until August and September for cases to decrease to near zero for Brazil, Peru and Chile. Mexico may be the country with an earlier recovery date in July. The pandemic will have far-reaching consequences in both health measures and economic impact in these markets.

Figure 1: Brazil, Daily New Cases (N) COVID-19 Peak Transmission Models, Mar–Aug 2020

Covid-19 Latin America

Figure 2: Peru, Daily New Cases (N) COVID-19 Peak Transmission Models, Mar–Aug 2020

Figure 3: Chile, Daily New Cases (N) COVID-19 Peak Transmission Models, Mar–Aug 2020

Figure 4: Mexico, Daily New Cases (N) COVID-19 Peak Transmission Models, Mar-Aug 2020