[Extract] Latin America emerged as one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 2022, the region, representing only 8.4% of the world’s population, had more than 65 million confirmed cases, or 15% of cases worldwide, and more than 1.6 million deaths, or 28% of deaths worldwide. Latin America’s gross national product contractions resulting from the pandemic are estimated to be between 7% and 10%; these contractions have increased unemployment and poverty and exacerbated income inequality. Moreover, as in other countries, the disease has disproportionately affected the poorest and most vulnerable populations.
In the past 50 years, Latin America has experienced more than 4500 disasters that have caused the death of almost 600 000 people and injured more than 3 million, in addition to causing significant economic losses. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased these figures and has further challenged health systems’ capabilities in various settings. Researchers have had to rapidly study diagnosis, treatment, and immunization for a new pathogen. Health care personnel have had to cope with a large and prolonged emergency, which has involved a shortage of ventilators, intensive care unit beds, and personal protective equipment. Health authorities have needed to frequently issue updated guidelines in a context of rapidly changing scientific evidence. It has been necessary to communicate key information to the population and counter misinformation and social movements opposed to preventive care or vaccination. Diagnostic tests have had to be manufactured in sufficient quantity, and laboratory capacity has had to be increased.[...]