RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Brazil registered its 50,000th death from the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday, underlining Latin America’s desperate struggle to contain the disease, as Europe’s gradual emergence from lockdown was marked by Spain reopening its borders.
Brazil is the second worst-affected country behind the United States (US), and the spread of COVID-19 is accelerating across Latin America, with Mexico, Peru and Chile also hard-hit as death tolls soar and healthcare facilities are pushed toward collapse.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been fiercely criticised for comparing the virus to a “little flu”, argues the economic impact of shutdowns is often worse than the virus itself. But Mexico City has delayed reopening markets, restaurants, malls, hotels and places of worship, with the country now recording over 20,000 COVID-19 deaths.
Highlighting the region’s woes, Peru passed 8,000 deaths on Sunday despite preparing to reopen shopping malls yesterday.
In contrast, primary and secondary school children returned to class in France yesterday, and cinemas and theatres reopened.
One cinema in Paris opened just after midnight to mark the occasion, with audiences cheering the opening credits.
“We booked immediately. It’s not our usual schedule, but it will create a nice memory after these difficult weeks,” one cinema-goer named Loriane told AFP.
On Sunday, traffic flowed again across the Spain-France border in a watershed moment for the millions of businesses and workers across Europe who have suffered from the economic downturn.
“We wanted to be in Spain for the sun, the beach, tapas, and I’m already wearing my swimsuit under my clothes,” said Frenchwoman Sylvia Faust, who crossed into Spain with her 17-year-old daughter.
Clusters have also emerged in the Palestinian territories, Morocco and Iran, where officials have now registered more than 100 deaths a day for three days running.