Thu | Jul 2, 2020

Worst virus fears are realised in poor or war-torn countries

Published:Monday | June 29, 2020 | 9:25 AM
In this Friday, June 26, 2020 file photo, health workers take a nasal swab sample during a testing and screening operation for the new coronavirus, in Hyderabad, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Pervez Masih, File)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — For months, experts have warned of a potential nightmare scenario: After overwhelming health systems in some of the world’s wealthiest regions, the coronavirus gains a foothold in poor or war-torn countries ill-equipped to contain it and sweeps through the population.

Now some of those fears are being realised.

In southern Yemen, health workers are leaving their posts en masse because of a lack of protective equipment, and some hospitals are turning away patients struggling to breathe.

In Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region, where there is little testing, a mysterious illness resembling COVID-19 is spreading through camps for the internally displaced.

Cases are soaring in India and Pakistan, together home to more than 1.5 billion people and where authorities say nationwide lockdowns are no longer an option because of high poverty.

In Latin America, Brazil has a confirmed caseload and death count second only to the United States, and its leader is unwilling to take steps to stem the spread of the virus. Alarming escalations are unfolding in Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Panama, even after they imposed early lockdowns.

The first reports of disarray are also emerging from hospitals in South Africa, which has its continent’s most developed economy.

Sick patients are lying on beds in corridors as one hospital runs out of space. At another, an emergency morgue was needed to hold more than 700 bodies.

“We are reaping the whirlwind now,” said Francois Venter, a South African health expert at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg.

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