With data released through May 15 by Peru’s Ministry of Health (Minsa) and Cusco’s Dirección Regional de Salud (Diresa) both appear to be headed in drastically different directions.
[Be wary of people who utilize false information when analyzing data across Peru and Cusco or who leave out important data and information when making analysis designed to fit a pre-determined bias. Remember that analysis should come from the data without picking and choosing data (or making up data) to seemingly support what they want to believe. Sadly, this happens all the time.]
TESTING POSITIVITY RATES
The great news is that, while testing remains quite high in Peru, the positivity rates of testing have reached some really surprising lows.
For the past 8 days in a row, the 7-day average has stayed below 10% — something that hasn’t happened since the first days of the pandemic. Over the last week the average has dropped to 9.46% which is the lowest since March 30, 2020! (The number of tests performed continued to be very high.)
Not surprisingly considering the prevalence of the more virulent Brazilian P.1 variant, the decreasing trend has leveled off recently, but has been dropping steadily for several weeks.
HOSPITALIZATIONS AND ICU CARE
The number of people occupying ICU beds across Peru continues a very slow slight rise, but this is deceiving as beds continue to be nearly full in many parts of the country.
Hospitalizations have been dropping consistently for about four weeks. This is a normal correlation with decreasing positivity rates and should be seen as extremely good news.
Though down somewhat from last month, Peru still is experiencing an extremely high number of deaths each day. The more virulent Brazilian strain is undoubtedly contributing greatly to this, but these numbers should be expected to drop during the second half of May as long as infections and hospitalizations continue to go down.
COVID-19 IN CUSCO
While the rest of the Peru is seeing solid improvements, The Cusco region is getting worse and worse very quickly. Positivity rates of testing in the region has risen to a level not seen during the entire 14 months of the pandemic.
The previous week has seen 33.6% of those testing being found to be infected with COVID-19. That means 1 in 3 people tested are contagious. That’s 62% higher than the end of last month.
Deaths have not shown a trend so far in Cusco except perhaps a slight increase recently, but still remains very, very high when compared to before the start of the second wave back in December. With positivity rates indicating the virus is spreading at a frightening rate, it is likely that the number of deaths will increase soon as it is what is known as “trailing indicator” that follows 2-3 weeks after an increase in infections.
Cusco has about 3.7% of Peru’s population, yet has recorded 6.8% of the country’s deaths this month.
The worst part of this is, while almost all Peruvian Cusqueños wear masks (and in many cases two), a very large number of expats gather maskless in small and large groups as well as go out in public without a mask — things that are explicitly prohibited by law.
How do we know this? They constantly show it off on social media.
Perhaps even worse is the fact that many expats in the Cusco area have become infected with COVID and haven’t bothered to share this fact with everyone who might have been exposed.
One positive is that Cusco is doing a very good job with vaccinations. Though coming slower than some other places around the world, Cusco is doing a good job when vaccines arrive and soon residents over 60 years of age will be getting their first shots.
Sadly, there is also a large number of expats who oppose vaccinations based on a lack of understanding of science (along with YouTube videos and ignorant social media posts).
Fortunately, as vaccinations continue to increase — especially among vulnerable populations — we should see decreases in infections and hospitalizations) across Cusco and the country.
OTHER IMPORTANT COVID NEWS
The current transitional government continues to expand hospital capacity in the country, said the Minister of Education, Ricardo Cuenca, who also indicated that in a few days the vaccination of adults over 60 years of age will begin. [Note: in some places like Aguas Calientes vaccinations of this age group has already begun.]
In a press conference, Cuenca, accompanied by the Minister of Defense, Nuria Esparch, said that so far 2,368,317 doses of COVID vaccine. “More than 1,600,000 people have received the first dose and 746,000 have already received both doses,” he noted.
He added that as of Friday more than one million doses against COVID-19 have been applied in the country’s interior departments, among health personnel, the Police, Armed Forces and firefighters and to prioritized senior citizens.
Cuenca also mentioned that in the next seven days more than 200,000 doses will be applied in Metropolitan Lima and Callao to people based on age groups and comorbidity conditions.
“We know that vaccination is life and that is why we put our whole shoulder to the wheel,” said Cuenca. “Vaccination is the most important shield we have to fight the pandemic.”
Cuenca also noted that at the beginning of President Sagasti’s administration in November there were only 1,480 ICU beds.
“To date,” he said, “we have 2,776 and we expect to have 3,000 ICU beds by July. The government has also made a huge effort to expand the supply of medical oxygen plants. When we arrived we found 63 oxygen plants and today we have 208, which means an increase of more than 200%.”
Esparch said that so far this year 375 Tayta operations have been carried out to identify cases of coronavirus and more than 50,000 people have been attended. She announced that next May 20 there will be Tayta operations in 15 districts — four of them in the capital (Barranco, San Juan de Lurigancho, Carabayllo and Callao) and 11 in regions such as Ancash, Ayacucho, Huanuco, Lambayeque, Pasco, Piura, Puno, Ucayali and Cusco.
Esparch also announced that in the previous 24 hours 8,663 people were intervened for not complying with the pandemic restriction measures.
“So far this year, 967,163 people have been intervened,” she said. “This means that 1 out of every 33 Peruvians has been intervened by the Police for not complying with the rules and 321,000 fines have been applied.“
Esparch highlighted that the Ministry of Housing approved a guide for the temporary use of public spaces near food markets. The document “establishes guidelines so that market traders, on a temporary basis and in coordination with the municipalities, can move their stalls to public spaces adjacent to the markets.”
“In less than a month,” she said, “the number of gastronomic terraces at national level has quadrupled. We have gone from 42 to 179. This use of safe public spaces helps to face the economic crisis in the gastronomic sector. In less than three weeks we already have 180 pilots of gastronomic terraces nationwide and 80 municipalities have been trained for this implementation.”
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