By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) – The number of coronavirus cases in the Americas surpassed 18 million Wednesday, with the death toll reaching 590,000, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
PAHO announced that it is conducting pilot studies in Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Suriname, making available new antigen diagnostic tests recently approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) to carry out affordable, reliable and rapid testing, even in remote communities.
“By providing results quickly, the new test empowers frontline health workers to better manage cases by isolating patients to prevent further spread and to begin treatment immediately,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in a press briefing.
“If distributed widely, this new test will transform our COVID response,” she added.
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele said the country was experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus.
"We have confirmed a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Although hospitals remain relatively empty and the pandemic is still relatively under control, the number of consecutive days with an increase in cases indicates that a national outbreak has begun," Bukele said on Twitter.
El Salvador has recorded 30,766 coronavirus cases and 904 fatalities.
While in most Latin American countries, the number of infections is decreasing, cases in Argentina continue to rise.
With a total of 931,967 registered infections as of Wednesday, the country is already among the five countries with the most cases worldwide.
Meanwhile, protests have been taking place in the South American nation against a seven-month quarantine which was recently extended until Oct. 25.
Despite dismissing COVID-19 as a "little flu" and being criticized for his handling of the pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the virus on July 7, has never been more popular in his country.
Some 40% of Brazilians surveyed across 127 municipalities in September regarded Bolsonaro as "good/excellent,” according to a study from the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics.
Brazil has over 5,140,000 COVID-19 cases and 151,747 deaths.
Authorities in Uruguay reported 51 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, at least 17 of them linked to a nursing home, taking the total number of infections in the country to 2,388.
Tourism Minister Germán Cardoso said he does not think Uruguay will be able to open its borders with Argentina and Brazil in the short term because neighboring countries are still struggling with rising cases.
"I see it as very difficult in the current circumstances to open normally. It does not depend only on me, but with the rate of contagion in Argentina and Brazil, it is really very complex,” he said.
Mexico has reported a total of 825,340 cases and 84,420 deaths.
Authorities say the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher due to a lack of testing in the country.