MONTEVIDEO.- It became a case of success and a model for the region in the fight against the coronavirus, no mandatory quarantine, with face-to-face classes for children and adolescents, social responsibility and few active cases. But the situation began to get complicated. Although Uruguay seemed that it was going to overcome the pandemic without problems and that the entire increase in health infrastructure would remain only as unused insurance, In the last two weeks, the country suffered an outbreak of infections that generates alert in the authorities and experts.
The government of Luis Lacalle Pou is convinced that now the spread of the virus nor it can be easily braked. “Reasonably we have to think that the number of cases will continue to increase,” Public Health Minister Daniel Salinas said this week, sending a harsh message to society.
Projections indicate that infections will continue to increase in December, for being a month of meetings and goodbyes, and in january, in which there is greater mobility for vacations, with family and friends gatherings, in which very few use masks.
Health authorities are trying to recruit volunteers for contact tracing of infected people, but that is becoming increasingly difficult. And if something was missing to ensure that there will be closed borders in the summer season, the outbreak has given even more force to the government’s measure. Uruguay will tighten controls to prevent greater mobility at border crossings.
In June, only 12 active cases of Covid-19 had been reached throughout the country and there was confidence in having defeated the pandemic or, at least, having it under control. Then there were ups and downs, and with strict monitoring of each case and its links, the plan was effective. But in the last two weeks, infections have multiplied and the number of active cases is close to a thousand, and with an upward trend.
The president maintains his decision not to prohibit people from moving freely, but also to reinforce the message of individual and collective “responsibility”. “If we take care of each other, this coexistence does not have to be reversed,” said Lacalle Pou, who recalled that “reducing social mobility” affects the economy, employment and families.
Those comments were made after a meeting with those in charge of tracing the epidemiological threads. “They are making a huge effort, also working at night,” said Lacalle Pou. This work is with calls to each person who had contact with an infected person, so that they remain isolated and take a test.
The impact of this week was with a selected soccer medium infected, which occurred after the trip to Colombia and also after controversial photos were released, in which the players were seen in a group barbecue, mateando and without a chinstrap.
The Minister of Health criticized the sanitary measures taken by the Uruguayan team and described the actions of the footballers as “careless”.
The entry of the virus was mainly through land passages and to a lesser extent by those who arrived in the country by plane, such as athletes. The outbreaks were in binational city links with Brazil, in a nursing home, three schools, a laboratory, two religious temples and several sports clubs. In a second division soccer team there were more than 30 infected and in the national team they reached 15 in a few hours.
For a country of 3.5 million people, there was a significant number of tests. The 100 new cases detected the day before yesterday arose from 4,739 analyzes. Since the emergency was declared, 390,704 tests have been processed, with 4,477 infected people, of which 3,547 recovered and 69 died; there are now 861 active cases. Of those, nine are in Intensive Care and one in intermediate care. More than half of the cases are in Montevideo.
One of the government’s decisions that was praised by the entire political system was the formation of two groups of experts, one for crisis management and the other for driving back to the “new normal.”
One of the scientists advising the president, Rafael Radi, a specialist in biomedicine and president of the National Academy of Sciences, told LA NACION that the greatest spread occurred by “greater mobility, with an increase in contacts, and some events in which there was little protection and were extended over time, in a framework of increased contacts without adherence to all mitigation measures, such as sharing mate “.
Radi described the situation as “relative control” with the reinforcement of “test and tracking systems to prevent intense and sustained community spread” and “trying to reinforce measures that involve adequate social behavior.” The expert conveyed concern about the summer season: “The risks were verified in Europe; parties, sharing drinks and activities indoors for a long time.”
Doctor Jorge Facal, director of the Maciel Hospital Medical Clinic, was one of the first doctors to treat Covid-19 cases in March. “People get tired of being locked up, of taking care of themselves, and that complicates because it facilitates contagion,” Facal told LA NACION, concerned that the greater number of active cases makes epidemiological monitoring difficult. “A good initiative arose to add medical students, retired doctors, for the tracking tasks,” said the member of the expert committee, formed in March.
For his part, the former president of the National Academy of Medicine Henry Cohen pointed out that “it is difficult for people to motivate themselves to carry out the measures” and does not take into account that Uruguay “has done very well”, which is why the importance of “re-motivating people, recognizing their effort, making them part of the solution and not of the problem.”
The most popular trade unionist in the country, Richard Read, proposed that “brigades of the Ministry of Health and of the municipalities” are armed to “go out to the streets to alert, inform and raise awareness about the risks.”
The Minister of Health recorded a spot that he published on social networks and the media with a message along these lines: “Today I am not speaking to you as a minister, but as a father. Nothing that we have achieved as a whole of society would have been possible without your participation, without your attitude. And that is why I am going to ask you something very special: that you get together less with your friends or acquaintances, and that you do not share with them or mate, or bottles, or glasses. This will make us all flatten the curve and get to summer in better shape. I’m counting on you. “