Argentina and Colombia have respectively reported more than 4,268,000 and 3,945,000 total confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and more than 89,000 and 99,934 deaths due to Covid-19. The number of cases in South America has increased as the winter season begins. Argentina and Colombia are among the worst-hit countries in the region, second only to Brazil. According to GlobalData’s analysis, death rates in Argentina have increased at an alarming rate since early April, when the death rate of Covid-19 stood at approximately 1,200 deaths per million population. As of June 20, the death rate due to Covid-19 is over 2,000 deaths per million population and the incidence rate is estimated at 236.3 new cases per million population. Death rates in Colombia are similar to those of Argentina. However, Colombia’s incidence rate is more than twice that of Argentina’s, at 567.7 new cases per million population. Both countries began to record an increase in new cases in early April. Since then, cases have increased, creating a new wave much worse than the previous one. As winter approaches and a new increase of cases is recorded, heightened restrictions, increased testing and contact tracing will be crucial to control the spread of the virus.
According to GlobalData’s Risk Transmission Forecast Model based on historical data for total confirmed cases of Covid-19, Argentina and Colombia appear to be trending along the moderate transmission risk scenario, as shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2. The outlook for the future remains uncertain. In Argentina, the healthcare system is strained, with approximately 20,000 new cases and 520 deaths reported daily. According to the Ministry of Health, as of June 20, the occupancy rate in the intensive care unit (ICU) is 73% countrywide. Possible reasons for the increase of cases that began in early April are thought to be related to the spread of the Gamma variant, first identified in Brazil. There is also increased resistance from the general population to follow quarantine and social distancing measures. As Argentina’s winter season begins, cases will likely increase given the seasonal patterns observed last year and during the winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The positive test rate in Argentina is 26.9%, a figure that indicates that community transmission is high and more tests need to be done.
The situation in Colombia is similar to that of Argentina and the healthcare system is reaching a breaking point. According to Colombia’s Ministry of Health, the ICU occupancy rate is currently 87%, with nearly over 65% of ICU patients diagnosed with Covid-19. The average new daily cases in the week leading up to June 20 were around 27,000, which was 1,700 cases higher than the week before and 2,200 cases higher than two weeks before. The current positive test rate in Colombia is approximately 21%, indicating that more testing should be done to get an accurate idea of the situation in the community. Despite the increase in cases and high positive test rates, the government in Colombia has started to ease Covid-19 mitigation measures and approved the reopening of large events previously suspended to curb the spread of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the proportion of positive tests remain below 5% for at least two weeks before governments consider reopening. Argentina and Colombia will need to remain vigilant and should increase the number of tests carried out, especially in areas of high contagion, to get an accurate picture of the situation in the community. Continued monitoring of new cases and country trends is needed to determine each country’s future trajectory. However, taking into account the current situation in Argentina and Colombia and the start of the winter season, it is unlikely that cases and the risk of transmission will decrease in the upcoming months.