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Latin America Confronts the Coronavirus

The challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic has no parallel in recent history. The world and the Latin American and Caribbean region cannot afford delayed or inadequate responses. Mutual trust, transparency, and reason – not populism or demagoguery – remain the best guideposts in these uncertain times.

SÃO PAULO/SANTIAGO/BOGOTÁ/MEXICO CITY – The COVID-19 pandemic is a shock of unprecedented magnitude and uncertain duration. The consequences have been catastrophic. If not properly addressed, the crisis could cause one of the most tragic episodes in Latin America’s history.

So far, policy responses in our region have been uneven. Several governments reacted promptly, making the protection of public health their primary objective. Sadly, others minimized the risks of the pandemic, misinforming citizens and disregarding both scientific evidence and their own experts’ advice. Such leaders chose to pursue populist and divisive politics in the midst of tragedy.

Minimizing the pandemic’s death toll must be Latin America’s top priority. Policymakers should focus on upgrading health systems, channeling resources to hospitals, temporarily adapting idle infrastructure such as hotels and convention centers, and sharply increasing testing capacity.