Our bodies once more pile up in Bolivia as Latin America endures a protracted, lethal coronavirus wave.

In Bolivia, bodies are piling up at home and on the streets, reflecting the terrifying images of last summer when a deadly spike in coronavirus infections overwhelmed the country’s fragile medical system. Bolivian police say they recovered 170 bodies of people believed to have died from Covid-19 in January and health officials say the intensive care units are full.

“If 10 or 20 patients die, their beds will be full again in hours,” said Carlos Hurtado, public health epidemiologist in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s largest city.

The virus resurgence in Bolivia is part of a larger second wave across Latin America, where some of the world’s toughest quarantine measures are giving way to pandemic fatigue and economic worries.

The International Monetary Fund announced on Monday that it was revising its 2021 growth forecast for Latin America and the Caribbean from 3.6 percent to 4.1 percent. The fund warned that in some cases the surge could jeopardize an economic recovery that is likely to take longer than other parts of the world, and forecast regional production will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.

As the number of new cases falls, deaths remain at record highs in many parts of the region, just as some governments are starting vaccination efforts.

In Brazil and Mexico, an average of more than 1,000 people have died from Covid-19 every day for weeks. Its total pandemic death toll is second only to that of the United States. The deaths in Brazil have reached their summer peak, while in Mexico they are far higher than any previous high, although they have started to fall in the past few days.


Apr. 9, 2021, 7:02 p.m. ET

In Bolivia last summer, the New York Times revised mortality figures suggested the country’s actual death toll was nearly five times the official figure, suggesting that Bolivia had suffered one of the worst epidemics in the world. According to a Times analysis, about 20,000 more people died from June to August than in previous years – a large number in a country of about 11 million people.

Bolivia currently reports an average of 60 coronavirus deaths per day, approaching last summer’s numbers. Experts believe the higher death rate is caused by the contagious virus variants that originate in neighboring Brazil and elsewhere, but they lack the tools to analyze the viruses’ genetic code.

Despite the rising death rate, the Bolivian authorities failed to implement quarantine measures to contain the first wave of the virus a year ago. Officials in Bolivia and other Latin American countries are hailing their emerging vaccination programs as a reason to avoid lockdowns, although few countries in the region outside of Brazil have sourced significant numbers of doses.

Only 20,000 doses of vaccine have arrived in Bolivia, although the government plans to vaccinate eight million people by September.

In other global developments:

  • Other cases related to a quarantine hotel in Victoria, Australia, were reported as employees on Tuesday and the returning traveler both tested positive for the virus. The traveler had completed her quarantine period, making it the second person that week to test positive after leaving a facility.

  • Great Britain Defense Department said a “very small number” of its soldiers are in Kenya had tested positive for the virus in an outbreak at a training camp in the East African nation. The warehouse, about 120 miles north of the capital Nairobi, has about 100 permanent and 280 rotating employees, according to the British military. The base closed last year but reopened last month.

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