The Omicron variant is being the protagonist of a new wave of infections around the world. This is how Omicron advances in Latin America .
The avalanche of infections by Ómicron is a reality that is forcing countries to take measures to slow down its advance. Photo: Unsplash
LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos
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Leer en español: Así avanza Ómicron en Latinoamérica
The avalanche of infections by Omicron is a reality that is forcing countries to take measures to slow down its advance. In fact, the last week of 2021 was the one with the most infections in the entire history of the pandemic.
While in Europe, Omicron has already become the dominant variant of several countries, in Latin America it is just beginning its advance. To date, Mexico and Chile occupy the first places in infections, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) platform.
In this regard, the southern country has tightened its entry protocols : the reopening of 5 land border crossings has been postponed and PCR is being required of all travelers. However, the government does not plan strict restrictions, but will accelerate the fourth dose of the vaccine and has been vaccinating children from the age of 3. Meanwhile, Mexico has been more reluctant to implement measures. However, this can be explained by the fact that despite having 47 thousand 874 active cases, "hospital occupancy is 91 percent lower compared to the maximum peak of the second epidemic wave in January 2021," according to the Government from Mexico.
Brazil, Puerto Rico, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, French Guyana, Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, and Panama have also reported Omicron cases. In Colombia, the health minister, Fernando Ruiz, stated that the country must be prepared for a sharp and rapid spike and insisted on the need to speed up vaccination. In general, countries are reluctant to adopt new lockdowns, as entrepreneurs and individuals would no longer resist.
For this reason, the population is being insisted on continuing with biosafety measures and the health passport is being adopted to attend events or closed places, such as in Argentina, Colombia, some areas of Brazil and Bolivia. On the other hand, countries are beginning to consider making the vaccine mandatory. This is a controversial step that Ecuador has already taken. However, the World Health Organization has stated that this should be the last resort. The truth is that the population cannot lower its guard, because after the first stages of vaccination there was a relaxation in the measures that today it is necessary to adopt rigorously again, to mitigate the damage that this new wave may cause.
A 26/12/21 red genomica @INSColombia confirma 3 semanas de circulación de Ómicron en el país. Muestras + en 3 deptos. y Bogota. 23% frente a 77% Delta. Dada alta transmisión al igual que otros países será dominante en el país al final del año. Vacunación es la clave! @MinSaludCol pic.twitter.com/b0GzSVxo4v— Fernando Ruiz (@Fruizgomez) December 30, 2021
Despite the speed with which this variant is transmitted, initial studies seem to indicate that it is no more dangerous than the others. However, governments must act quickly because even if economies do not withstand new quarantines or restrictions, the rise in cases cannot be underestimated. Despite the advance in vaccination, as cases increase, it is also inevitable that more medical assistance will be required. For example, in Peru, the director of the Peruvian Medical Federation, Danilo Salazar, said in an interview with RPP that 1,500 intensivists would be required in the Intensive Care Units (ICU) to face a new wave.
The Pan American Health Organization PAHO warned that due to the holiday and vacation season, it is most likely that there will be an increase in deaths and hospitalizations in the coming weeks. According to this institution, at the end of 2021 57% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean was fully vaccinated. Completing the vaccination schedules for the majority of the population and applying booster doses will be necessary to combat the pandemic this year and ensure economic and social recovery, in addition to mitigating the advance of omicrón that has been more contagious than the previous variants.
In this sense, good news came at the end of December when the emergency use of a vaccine produced by laboratories in Argentina and Mexico was approved together. "This is an important milestone for Latin America and highlights the importance of technology transfer to increase the availability of quality COVID-19 vaccines in the region," said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne.