A year ago I published In a pandemic there is no place I’d rather be than Uruguay.
The situation is different now. We spent the entire 2020 with very few cases of coronavirus and very few deaths. Our first wave only emerged slowly slowly in December, peaking this March, a year after everyone else… Sadly this month we passed two thousand deaths (in total since the pandemic started) and while experts say our first wave appears to have plateaued, it’s plateauing at around 3000 cases a day. We currently have one of the highest infection rates in the world but we also have one of the highest vaccination rates. Everyone who's signed up (72% of those eligible) should be "jabbed", as we say in the UK, by mid July.
The consequences of the pandemic are significant. The GACH, Uruguay’s honorary scientific committee, shared this week that around 50,000 patients have had their surgeries postponed. In the last year 100,000 people fell below the poverty line.
At the end of March the infamous R number, or incidence of contagion was R1.2. This week it dropped below one. The GACH attributes this to the closing of schools and public employees working from home. They don’t think that at this time, in the short term, the vaccination campaign is the reason, but they admit things are looking positive in departments like Durazno which have vaccinated hard and are seeing a larger reduction in the number of cases. Also healthcare workers who were vaccinated with Pfizer already appear to be less vulnerable to infection after the first shot.
It’s been a privilege to live in a country where we’ve never endured an obligatory lockdown. Where cafés and restaurants have been able to stay open. Where we’ve been free to go to the beach or the countryside. All as long as we make sure that we are protecting others as best we can. It feels like we’ve lived a different pandemic to so much of the rest of the world.
I wrote In a pandemic there is no place I’d rather be than Uruguay in April 2020. And I still feel the same way. Thank you, Uruguay.
It’s not over yet, but as we move into our Southern hemisphere autumn, things feel more hopeful. As usual I’ll be keeping you posted.
Hope you’re having a great weekend.