In Peru

Health system buckling amid rise in cases

LIMA (Peru) • The health system in Peru is on the brink of collapse, with public hospitals facing drastic equipment shortages amid a rising number of coronavirus cases.

A University of Washington study has projected that Covid-19 deaths in Peru will reach nearly 20,000 by August, indicating that demand is likely to outstrip the supply of beds in intensive care units.

Peru's Health Ministry on Tuesday said 5,772 new cases had been confirmed in the previous 24 hours, bringing the overall number to 129,751. It said 3,788 people had died from the disease in the country since the first case was detected in early March.

Nearly 70 per cent of cases are in the capital, Lima, and the neighbouring port of Callao, home to 10 million people or almost one-third of Peru's population.

The news follows concern expressed by the Pan American Health Organisation over the accelerating number of cases in Peru, along with those of neighbouring Chile and Brazil.

President Martin Vizcarra said there were signs that the worst had passed.

"Peru has already entered a plateau in the curve that registers the expansion of the epidemic," Mr Vizcarra said. The curve "is not flat, but irregular, but the trend is towards a gradual and slow decline".

Peru has been in lockdown for 72 days, paralysing the economy. The Andean nation, which began the lockdown in mid-March, will have lived under it for more than 31/2 months by the time the curbs are set to expire on June 30, outlasting restrictions in Italy, Spain and China, some of the hardest hit countries in the pandemic.

Mr Vizcarra said the latest and fifth extension of the lockdown, which was announced last Friday and is more than a month beyond the previous expiration date of May 24, would come with the reopening of certain economic activities, including household appliance sales, hair salons and dental services.

Restrictions on some sports will also be relaxed, including professional soccer, though games will take place in stadiums without an audience.

"We must move to a new coexistence, which allows us as a society to be more caring, more responsible, disciplined, respectful of the minimum standards of behaviour so as not to harm the people we love the most," Mr Vizcarra said.

Peru has the second highest number of cases in Latin America, after Brazil.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2020, with the headline 'Health system buckling amid rise in cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe