- With 200,000 COVID deaths in a population of less than 33 million.
- Even those who can access care through public health facilities have to pay some fees – and before the pandemic, this out-of-pocket spending on healthcare was increasing.
- As vaccination levels have increased from mid-2021 onwards, cases and death rates have fallen and stabilised at a low level.
The impact of the pandemic in Peru has been particularly catastrophic, with 200,000 COVID deaths in a population of fewer than 33 million people: the country has the highest COVID death rate per head of population in the world. COVID is also thought to be responsible for one of the highest percentages of orphaned or abandoned children in the world as reported by The Conversation.
On paper, though, Peru was in a better position to tackle COVID than many other countries. It is an upper-middle-income country that was doing well economically before COVID. Life expectancy had been growing and poverty had been decreasing, and the country had made significant progress in improving public health, with increased access to healthcare.
Peru was also one of the first countries in Latin America to order people to stay at home in order to prevent the virus from spreading. Authorities in Peru, unlike in some other seriously impacted Latin American countries such as Brazil or Mexico, did not deny the pandemic’s threat.
So, how did it get into such a mess in the first place?
Not built for lockdown
The Peruvian government issued a statewide state of emergency on March 15, 2020, after 28 confirmed illnesses and no reported deaths.
Schools, institutions, and churches were all shuttered due to the storm.
Unfortunately, early implementation of these steps was not enough to mitigate the pandemic’s damage.
The number of cases began to rise almost immediately.
As a result, the government announced a number of initiatives, including financial transfers, to try to secure people’s livelihoods while also requesting that they stay at home.
The state, on the other hand, lacked the capacity to supply cash and food in such a way that individuals didn’t have to leave their homes. To get their cash transfers, people still had to go out and stand in huge lines at banks. Many people still had to travel to food markets on a daily basis. Both of these locations constituted potential infection hotspots.
Weaknesses in healthcare
As the number of instances increased, it became clear that the Peruvian health system had systemic flaws.
According to the Ministry of Health, 78% of health and medical centres had insufficient capacity to deliver services in January 2020, which includes antiquated, inoperative, or insufficient equipment.
By the beginning of 2021, 97% of primary services had been covered.
Peru also had 29 intensive care beds per million inhabitants before the pandemic, which was lower than other nations in the region like as Brazil (206), Colombia (105), Chile (73) and Ecuador (73) (69).
Many healthcare facilities lacked the necessary staffing to function properly.
All of this limited Peru’s capacity to respond effectively in a crisis.
The indigenous peoples of Peru’s Amazon area, for example, have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. These ethnic groups were more vulnerable because of their lack of access to health services, water, and sanitation, as well as their high rates of poverty and child malnutrition.
An expensive system
Despite advances toward providing free universal healthcare, it is estimated that between 10% and 20% of Peru’s population still lacks health coverage.
Even people who can receive care through public health facilities must pay certain fees, and this out-of-pocket spending on healthcare was rising before the epidemic.
The pandemic then revealed how expensive this may wind up costing.
For some, the price will have deterred them from obtaining treatment in the first place.
The issue is that the health sector in Peru is mostly unregulated.
Cases and deaths in Peru have decreased and stabilised at a low level as vaccination levels have grown since mid-2021.
However, the crisis has exposed the country’s health system’s vulnerability, particularly the private sector’s potentially harmful influence.
Peru’s health system’s capability and accessibility must be greatly improved; otherwise, calamities like these could recur.
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Source: The Conversation