BOGOTA, Colombia

A rise in cases and deaths from the novel coronavirus in Brazil has put authorities in neighboring countries on alert.    

This week, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez said Brazil is a major threat to his country’s health security and noted that Paraguay is not thinking about opening the borders between the two countries yet. 

Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez has also expressed the same concern and told a radio station that Brazil represents a threat to South America, while Colombia decided to militarize the border with Brazil to curb the spread of the coronavirus as infections and deaths in the Amazon region rise. 

Brazil registered 881 deaths from the coronavirus in 24 hours, its worst daily record since the start of the outbreak, which has already killed more than 13,000 in the country, the most affected in the region. 

A study by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation found that the coronavirus was already circulating in Brazil in early February, before the carnival festivities and before the first case was officially detected. 

According to the study, COVID-19 began to spread around the first week of February, 20 days before the first official diagnosis of a patient.   

Between Feb. 21 and 25, Brazil celebrated Carnival, its biggest popular festival, which draws large crowds to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Salvador and other cities every year. On Feb. 26, the day Brazilians officially ended celebrations, the country announced its first coronavirus case. 

The coronavirus has so far resulted in 13,158 deaths and 181,518 cases in Brazil, according to official data.  

Brazil is followed by Peru, which has 76,306 infections and 2,169 deaths, and Mexico with 38,324 cases and 3,926 deaths. 

The health systems in Rio de Janeiro and Lima are overwhelmed, and on Wednesday, doctors and nurses protested in several cities in Peru to denounce the lack of protective gear and equipment. 

Leticia, the capital of Amazonas in Colombia, which lies next to the border with Brazil and Peru, has seen the number of confirmed cases increase, including an outbreak in a prison. 

On Thursday, the 128 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Leticia were the highest in the country, where the government has made efforts to bring medical supplies as there are not enough hospitals and those that do exist are not well equipped. 

In Chile, authorities decreed a “total quarantine” in Santiago after 11 new deaths and 2,660 cases of COVID-19 were reported in 24 hours on Wednesday, 60% more than the previous day. The country has 34,381 infected and 346 dead. 

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced that even though the numbers keep rising, the country is starting to open up sectors of the economy. In a first phase, 269 municipalities in 15 of Mexico’s 32 states that have very few positive cases will resume work activities and restart classes on May 18.

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