BOGOTA, Colombia

In the midst of a global pandemic, one that has hit Latin America especially hard, the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers kicked off Thursday in South America.   

Originally scheduled for March, the qualifiers for the most important international soccer tournament were pushed to October following the novel coronavirus pandemic. But while live sports are back, spectators are not. The 10 teams will play against each other in empty stadiums. 

Although most parts of the world are struggling to return to normal, COVID-19 is not showing any signs of slowing down in some Latin American countries.   

Chile

Scientists in Chile are investigating a possible mutation of the coronavirus in the country’s south, which has seen an unusual spike in cases in recent weeks. 

Researchers from the University of Magallanes were able to identify that the strain of cases in the months of May and June were different from those that occurred in the following months, suggesting a potential mutation of the disease.  

With occupied hospital beds and the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketing, sick residents from the Magallanes region are being evacuated to the capital Santiago. The country has reported over 476,000 cases and 13,167 deaths. 

Colombia

Colombia, which has more than 886,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, started vaccination trials with Johnson & Johnson on Thursday.  

The search for volunteers began on Sept. 21. Healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 60 were required for this first stage of the trial. Authorities explained that around 1,300 volunteers would be needed, and so far, 900 people have registered. 

The number of participants in the Johnson & Johnson study is the largest of any coronavirus vaccine in the world. It will include up to 60,000 participants from the US, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa. 

Mexico  

Mexico will participate in three trials for potential treatments against the coronavirus disease developed by Germany and the Republic of Korea, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced.

Ebrard has said that his country is planning to take part in the trials of an Italian, Russian and German vaccine.  

According to the latest figures reported by health authorities, Mexico has nearly 800,000 cases and 82,726 deaths from COVID-19. 

Peru 

Peru’s Prime Minister Walter Martos said Thursday that the country will not experience a second wave of coronavirus infections “like the one that is happening in Europe.” 

“If a second wave were to occur, it would be very different from what is happening there,” he said, claiming the number of people who have reached immunity in Peru is much higher than in European countries. 

According to President Martin Vizcarra, a study conducted by the Ministry of Health shows that about 40% of the population has already been infected. 

Peru has registered more than 835,600 cases and 33,000 deaths.

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