Latin America and Caribbean surpass million Covid-19 deaths

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More than one million people have died of Covid-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean since the pandemic began, according to an AFP count based on official figures as of Friday at 2105 GMT.

The region has also recorded more than 31.5 million infections.

More than 90 percent of deaths have been registered in five countries that account for 70 percent of the region's population: Brazil (446,309 dead), Mexico (221,080), Colombia (83,233), Argentina (73,391) and Peru (67,253).

"The lives of a million people have been cut short because of Covid-19. This is a tragic milestone for all of the region's inhabitants," said Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

"This pandemic is far from over and is hitting Latin America hard, affecting our health, economies and entire societies. However, only three percent of our population has been vaccinated."

Brazil continues to record the largest number of new daily deaths with an average of almost 2,000 this week, although that's a one-third drop from six weeks ago when it surpassed 3,000.

Mexico has made even better progress, dropping from 1,300 daily deaths at the end of January to an average of 170.

At the other end of the spectrum, Bolivia and Ecuador have seen daily deaths increase by 44 percent and 35 percent respectively over the last week.

Argentina and Colombia have experienced 15 percent and four percent increases in the same period.

Etienne blamed the slow vaccine rollout in the region for the problems.

More than 153.5 million people in the Americas have been vaccinated against Covid-19, PAHO said, but only 21.6 percent of those have been in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"The region is an epicenter of Covid-19 suffering. It should also be an epicenter for vaccinations," said Etienne.

In the United States, almost half the population has received at least one dose while close to 85 percent of those over 85 have had both, PAHO said.

Consequently the country has seen a huge reduction in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

"The progress we're seeing in the United States is a testament to the power of safe and effective vaccines, but it underlines the vital importance of accelerating their access in all of our region, so our countries can immunize their entire populations," said Etienne.

"We urgently need more vaccines for Latin America and the Caribbean."

Overall, the region of 33 countries and 15 territories has recorded an average of almost 3,900 daily deaths over the last week -- an increase of one percent on the previous week.

Infections, which averaged 142,000 a day, increased by 10 percent from the previous seven days.

Since the virus was first detected in China in December 2019, Latin America and the Caribbean has been the second worst affected region by deaths after Europe (almost 1.12 million fatalities) and well ahead of the United States and Canada (614,000).

The region accounts for close to 30 percent of the 3.44 million global deaths from Covid-19.