Last night Peru’s Ministry of Health released the final’s days report through the first three weeks of February and, while there are clear signs of leveling, it’s coming slower than expected.
The expected prevalence of the Brazilian P1 variant is starting to cause real devastation in Loreto again — a place where mask wearing and social distancing have never been popular among a great number of people in the region. (Massive Carnival celebrations earlier in the month involving thousands of people across the city of Iquitos will certainly result in increased problems for a region already suffering from lack of oxygen, hospital beds, and ICU capabilities.)
It appears that hospitalizations have finally started to peak across the country, but it’s going to take another week before this trend is clear.
The country’s continuing inability to meet the demand for ICU beds is aggravated by a shortage of personnel trained to work in these specialized units.
Unfortunately, while it looks as if there is steady leveling of patients admitted to ICU units across the country, this is just a reflection of the lack of beds available. There simply is no room to increase these numbers to fill the demand that exists.
This is the most disappointing area when looking at the data for the past week. While there was a precipitous drop in testing positivity rates in the first half of the month, the past week has seen a leveling off of the percentage of positive tests despite continued massive testing programs compared to previous months.
Indeed, there is even a very slight rise in positivity rates. Though it’s likely statistically insignificant right now, the data shows, at the very least, that the spread of COVID across Peru is no longer slowing down and may be starting to rise again.
One somewhat surprising (and encouraging) area is the number of deaths that appears to have leveled off and is starting to go down.
This is usually what’s known as a “trailing indicator” — meaning it shows changes after other data begins to show trends. It’s not clear why the number of people dying is going down despite hospitalizations remaining so high, but it’s possible that the new variants spreading in Peru are not as deadly as the original virus.
Unfortunately, the Brazilian variant is perhaps the least understood thanks to the Brazilian government’s “head in the sand” approach under President Bolsonaro to dealing with COVID over the past year. (It is clear, however, that the Brazilian variant can re-infect those who have already recovered from the original COVID virus.)
Sadly, February still is easily the worst month regarding the number of people dying in the country. Peru is averaging 194.4 deaths a day through the first three weeks of this month. Previously, at the height of the first wave of COVID, the daily average of deaths was lower during June (175.6), July (188.4), and August (190.8).
What Does All This Mean?
On Wednesday, Peru’s Council of Ministers will meet to go over all the data. It’s likely that this is the extent of the nationwide data that will influence their decisions of the designations of risk levels across the country.
That means they will be looking at exactly what I’ve presented above as it’s extremely unlikely that one more day’s data will be enough to have an effect in their decisions.
The current designations and the corresponding rules and regulations are set to expire on Sunday. An announcement is expected on Wednesday afternoon or evening regarding new changes that will go into effect on Monday.
I think it’s very clear that there won’t be many changes — especially in the country’s largest population center of Lima.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the detailed data for specific regions that they are looking at. Anecdotal evidence suggests that at least one region (Loreto) may be raised to the “Extreme Risk” level and go back into another strict quarantine.
I don’t expect too many provinces to see their designations dropped and most will remain at their current levels.
What will be interesting is to see if the administration will make adjustments to how they are targeting efforts to reduce contagion. There is a great deal of pressure for different focuses allowing for increased economic activity to operate in areas that had previous been completely shut down again.
As they say, stay tuned.
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