Schools across South America, an area hit particularly hard by the pandemic, are being reopened after a dramatic drop in Covid-19 cases have spurred hope of a return to normalcy sooner than expected.
Experts are attributing the success to the rising rate of vaccination. Brazil, the region’s biggest economy and one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic, announced recently that nearly 64% of its population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, putting it about level with the US.
With more than 70% of their population fully vaccinated, Chile and Uruguay are further ahead still. In Peru, where the pandemic has been extremely brutal and the government has struggled to source adequate vaccines, 32 % of the population is now vaccinated.
Argentina, having vaccinated almost 63% of its population, is set to re-open its economy fully.
Most of the countries in the region have reopened schools but have imposed mild social distancing measures, report regional media outlets.
The decline in Covid-19 cases has led the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to revise this region’s economic growth forecast higher.
The UN agency now expects the region’s economy to grow by 5.9 % this year, a 0.7 % increase from its own estimation released in July.
During the pandemic, experts including those at the World Health Organization have said that children appear to be better protected against the health concerns associated with Covid-19. However, the Delta variant that is now present in most South American countries appears to increase the risk to children.
Some countries outside of Latin America have already sent kids back to school. In the US, school reopenings led to a sharp rise in cases among children, while in the UK scientists are warning of a “significant surge” in cases owing to school reopenings.
In other parts of Latin America, children have returned to the classrooms after more than a year of online schooling. Since August 30, children in all Mexican states except Michoacán, Sinaloa and Baja California Sur, have been permitted to return to school on a voluntary basis. However, the National Coordinating Committee of the Teacher’s Union (CNTE) warned that many teachers would not return to teach due to the still-high risk of infection.
Offices across the region have been closed or had their capacities capped by governments attempting to stop the virus’ spread. In Mexico as of this week, offices were allowed to increase their capacity to 80% as long as they followed government guidelines.
However, the concern remains that the reopening of schools in South America could lead to spike in virus cases as other countries have already observed.
2020 saw economies crushed by the virus, with Argentina suffering a 10% contraction that pushed poverty levels to increase by 42% in the second half of the year.
The region can ill afford another mass breakout of Covid-19 that would force governments to once again impose lockdowns that would increase economic pressure on countries that are yet to recover from Covid’s first devastating wave.