BRASILIA - Two months after many countries in the region shut their borders, COVID-19 is still rampant in Latin America, and slum-dwellers, women and girls, people of African descent, and indigenous groups are hardest hit, PAHO chief Carissa Etienne said.

As inequalities are magnified by the lockdowns, the International Labour Organisation and the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America reported that the pandemic is expected to drive unemployment in the region up 3.4 percent to 11.5 percent – poverty would then be predicted to affect 34.7 percent of the population, with extreme poverty affecting 13 percent, or 83.4 million people.

Brazil, where a second health minister exited in less than one month over disagreements with virus-denying President Jair Bolsonaro, is soon to be second globally in terms of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

In neighbouring Peru, 80 percent of intensive care beds in the capital, Lima – where a third of the population lives – are taken by coronavirus patients, while at least 200,000 out of work people in coastal cities want to return to their hometowns. Indigenous peoples in eight Amazon Basin countries have, meanwhile, appealed to the UN for help. And, frustrated with the growing spread from imported cases, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei blasted US counterpart Donald Trump for deporting infected migrants and asylum seekers.