Paraguay: the island surrounded by land is managing to contain the coronavirus
Paraguay, that island surrounded by land, as Augusto Roa Bastos said, has stood out for its success in containing the COVID-19 epidemic.
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While South America is growing as the epicenter of the pandemic, and especially in Brazil, one of the countries it shares a border with, Paraguay, with its seven million inhabitants, seems to have stopped the virus in its tracks.
To date, Paraguay reports 877 confirmed cases, 11 deaths and 382 people who have recovered. According to the latest report from the Paraguayan Ministry of Health, there are only 8 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and none of them are in the intensive care unit.
Although Paraguay has not done intensive testing, like other countries that I have become a reference in containing the virus - while New Zealand has done an average of 54.19 tests per 1,000 people, Paraguay has done 3.48 - the low death rate and the fact that they saved their health system from collapse shows that the containment measures worked.
The country detected its first case of COVID-19 on March 7 and three days later the government published the first containment measures, which included suspending all public or private events involving crowds, all indoor public activities and educational activities at all levels for 15 days.
As of 20 March, Community transmission of the virus was confirmed in the country and the total quarantine decree - including closure of air and land borders - was issued on that day and extended five times, until May 3rd. By that date, Paraguay had 370 cases, while Uruguay had 652, Bolivia 1,470, Argentina 4,668 and Brazil 96,559.
To the government's rapid action in imposing containment measures - which also occurred in other countries in the region - Paraguay has the advantage of having much less air traffic than its neighbours. As a result, the number of people entering the country and bringing the virus was much lower.
At the moment Paraguay is in phase 2 of the reopening of its economy, which in addition to the construction sector and factories in general, includes offices with their reduced capacity, commercial stores of more than 800 m2 and sports and cultural events without an audience.
The closure of borders will be maintained for the time being. Paraguay has two challenges ahead: to ensure that the contagion curve continues to fall and to avoid importing new cases that could lead to outbreaks.