South America is now the hotspot for Covid-19, with eight times the death rate worldwide

SÃO PAULO — As Covid-19 recedes across much of the world, the pandemic is raging in South America, which has just 5% of the world’s population but now accounts for a quarter of the world’s death toll.

Almost a million people have died in 12 countries in the region. Amid another devastating wave, Brazil topped 500,000 last weekend, with the virus killing seven times as many people per capita each day as in hard-hit India. Colombia and Argentina, which together have 95 million inhabitants, have three times as many deaths every day as all of Africa. Of the 10 countries in the world with the highest daily death rates per capita, seven are now in South America. Collectively, the region’s per capita death rate is eight times the global rate.

Several factors explain why: a slow vaccination rate, the spread of new variants of Covid-19, overcrowded cities, weak health systems, obesity rates far higher than in Africa and Asia, and some governments who have largely given up on trying to control the virus.

“As infections and deaths from Covid-19 decline in the United States and other countries, South America has become the epicenter of the pandemic,” said Denise Garrett, epidemiologist who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for over 20 years.

Aftershocks from the pandemic in South America are expected to reverberate in the years to come. It has pushed millions of people into poverty, hampered economies and deprived some of the most needy children from education for more than a year.

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