Brazil and Mexico reported record daily coronavirus death tolls as governments in Latin America battled to fortify defenses against the accelerating pandemic with fresh lockdown orders and curfews.
European nations are emerging from months of devastation with some borders re-opening, but South and Central America have become the new hotspots in a crisis that has claimed at least 385,000 lives worldwide.
Mexico on Wednesday announced more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time, while Brazil reported a record 1,349 daily deaths.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has staunchly opposed lockdowns but many local authorities have defied him and, with the crisis deepening, a vast section of Bahia state was on Wednesday placed under curfew.
There was more cause for concern in Chile, where the government said it was extending a three-week shutdown of the capital Santiago after a new record for daily deaths.
And in more evidence of the scale of the crisis in Latin America, the journalists’ union in Peru said at least 20 reporters had died from the coronavirus.
The outbreak in Peru has been so intense that oxygen tanks needed in hospitals have become scarce, with many lining up to buy them for their loved ones.
“We haven’t found oxygen yet,” said Lady Savalla in the capital Lima.
“I’m worried about my mom more than anything else, because she’s going to need a lot of oxygen and the hospital doesn’t have enough.”
Experts have warned that travel restrictions will be needed around the world in some form until a vaccine is found — and efforts to develop one are gathering pace.
Britain is set to host a major meeting on Thursday, with more than 50 countries as well as powerful individuals such as Bill Gates taking part, to raise money for Gavi, the global vaccine alliance.
Gavi and its partners will launch a financing drive to purchase potential COVID-19 vaccines, scale up their production and support delivery to developing nations.
Tests on one potential vaccine, being developed by Oxford University, will begin on 2,000 health services volunteers in Brazil next week.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, said Wednesday that it would resume trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment after doubts were cast on the study that prompted the suspension over safety fears.
US President Donald Trump and Bolsonaro have touted the drug, with Washington sending Brazil two million doses earlier this week.