Peru, severely locked down, has the worst COVID death rate in the world.


"No country has been harder hit by Covid than my native Peru. Officially, the virus has claimed 33,600 lives from a total population of 32 million – the worst fatality rate in the world. But the real figure is far higher. Peru has a rickety public health system, and relied on Chinese antibody tests rather than PCR tests, so many coronavirus casualties went undiagnosed. I spoke to half a dozen Peruvians this week, including a doctor and a government official. All of them thought the true number of Covid deaths was closer to 80,000.

What has turned the ancient seat of Spain’s Viceroyalty into such a global outlier? You might think the answer is obvious, namely that Peru is a poor, sprawling place, with shantytowns, crowded minibuses and teeming markets. But you’d be wrong. Well aware of its situation, Peru decreed what must surely count as the toughest and, relative to infection rates, earliest lockdown on the planet.

On March 16, when there were only 28 confirmed cases, Peru closed its borders and imposed an eye-watering curfew. Men and women were allowed to leave home on alternate days, and only for essential purposes. The restrictions were enforced by the army and, by and large, they were obeyed. Google images showed a massive reduction in the number of people outdoors.

The economic consequences were catastrophic. Even in a wealthy country such as Britain, closures hit folk with cash-in-hand jobs much harder than people who can work from home. In Peru, where around two thirds of the economy is informal, things ground to a halt. Yet it did not slow the virus. Peru’s excess deaths – the number of people who have died in 2020 as against what would normally be expected – are the highest in the world."   Telegraph


I was in Iquitos once.  A small group of SF sergeants from 8th Group in Panama were there for six months in 1966 doing some sort of training for the local forces of order.  They got bored after a few months and decided in their happy, goofy way to stage the death and funeral of one of the team, someone popular with the townspeople.

The city dwellers mourned and followed the horse drawn hearse to the plaza in front of the cathedral.  The vehicle was one of those glass sided things with black plumes on the heads of the horses.  The deceased was laid out on top of the hearse surrounded with flowers.  Eulogies were spoken. The city brass band played the "Dead March in Saul."

At the emotional apogee of the thing, the deceased sat up and waved to the crowd and thanked them in fluent Spanish for their concern.

The American ambassador in Lima, far away from Amazonian Iquitos, was not happy when he heard of this episode.  For some reason I was sent down there to unscrew this mess.  I felt like I needed a new butt after the ambassador got through chewing it, but at Iquitos the city administration told me they thought the funeral was funny and that they wanted our sergeants to stay, especially "El Muerto."  pl

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25 Responses to Peru, severely locked down, has the worst COVID death rate in the world.

  1. TedBuila says:

    Really! sad numbers Pat. Your “El Muerto” story was a refreshing start to Sunday morning. Thanks. ted

  2. Deap says:

    If/when one can return to Peru, do not miss the elegant pre-Columbian Larco Museum in Lima, nor their cafe:

  3. j. casey says:

    Lockdown produces its own startlingly high numbers of deaths, in the US,too. Subtract apparent cv19 deaths from total excess deaths running average and you get about 80,000 excess deaths for 2020 not attributable to cv19. Former navy intell guy and quant on Twitter, “Ethical Skeptic” doing a very nice job charting the lockdown deaths in US but also the ongoing attempt by the usual suspects to find an avenue to cover up lockdown deaths. May be of interest to note the recent CDC study that shows people who wear masks “frequently” or “always” have a catastrophically high cov19 infection rate, many orders of magnitude above “never” or “rarely” mask wearers. Not based on CRT, but still enlightening.

  4. james says:

    your personal note is quite a fun story pat… thanks! on the other hand, the dynamic in peru sounds horrible… i knew there covid rates were high, but i don’t know the back story or the peruvian peoples natural proclivities…

  5. English Outsider says:

    Colonel – it’s “if only time” now when one looks at what could have been done at the very start. Mongolia was highly vulnerable. The urban population was as at risk as anywhere else and much of the rural population lives crammed together as well. And I don’t believe the health system is up to much, not compared with richer countries. Not a country where you’d want the virus running loose and they knew it. So they went to town on the virus from the start.
    No deaths, it’s claimed.
    I don’t suppose there are any lessons to be drawn from that for the UK. I doubt for the States either. Not now. But the early WHO advice on travel that led to so many countries not taking greater precautions at the borders should perhaps be changed if there’s another such pandemic.

  6. Fred says:

    Another glowing mandatory mask story, “this interview has been condensed and edited for clarity” – per the discaimer at the bottom/
    I especially like the WHO praise. “We got the majority of our test kits from the World Health Organization (WHO), including rapid tests, and were able to scale it up pretty quickly. ” Just how did the WHO manage that since it was a problem everywhere else?

  7. Diana L Croissant says:

    I did not ever get into a panic about dying from COVID19. Although at my age I am at the lower end of the age group most at risk, I have none of the health conditions that make a person more likely to be seriously affected by an infection: no heart problems, no lung problems, no weight problems, no kidney or liver problems, etc.
    I also did lots of quick research to learn about the virus. I don’t know how much you can depend on Internet research, but I did try to find sites that seemed reliable
    Since I am a “Universal blood donor” type O- I learned I’m not as likely to attract the virus. On the other hand, from doing that sort of research, I also learned that people of my blood type are the most likely to be abducted by other world aliens. (That actually sound exciting to me.)
    In addition, since I have had so many virus infections as a child and lived through them, I felt I probably didn’t need to worry. I had both forms of measles and also mumps on both sides, and many ear infections and several bouts of strep infections. I am also of the generation that were lined up in alphabetical order to get the polio vaccination. In other words, I had not died from those so felt if I did get the virus, I was due for whatever the outcome.
    That does not mean that I didn’t follow rules in order to get along in public: mask wearing, hand-washing, etc.
    I’ve simply not changed much else in terms of my regular life activities. And I am happy to say my church has been up and running for quite some time–and we do not wear masks. So far, no problems.
    I believe people simply need to decide how to think about the virus in connection to their own personal situation. And, as a Christian, I have not feared dying for much of my life.
    I am more than aware that living in this country and in my state and county has meant that I was luckier than so many others.
    I am very sad to read about the effect the virus had on the people of Peru. We really are lucky to live in the U.S.

  8. cirsium says:

    Another country which successfully dealt with SARS-CoV-2 is Nicaragua. Like Mongolia, the government reacted quickly to the threat. Unlike Mongolia, the country did not shut down.
    Lessons to be learned? Fast, effective government response, early pharmaceutical intervention.
    From the American Journal of Medicine – Pathophysiological Basis and Rationale for Early Outpatient response to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection

  9. Christian J. Chuba says:

    A country wide, across the board lockdown is an admission by the govt that it is not up for the job.
    By contrast, S.Korea, Japan, Taiwan outperformed N/S America and Europe.
    Surprisingly we don’t write that much about them. We always compare ourselves to Europe but I found a couple of things.
    1. There healthcare system is well integrated to do contract tracing. In a short period of time, you and everyone you came into close contact with are asked to sequester for 14 days. And being that they have evil, socialized medicine and the money to pay for it, they have the infrastructure to do it.
    2. The East Asians are used to wearing cloth masks. It took us about two months to figure out the difference between cloth masks and the nano-tech surgical ones. Once the govt issues a PSA to wear masks, the contact tracing most likely does not have to include people you walked by in the marketplace.
    3. They issued travel restrictions very early.
    The E.Asian countries did very little testing but they tested the right people.
    Peru is by far the worst hit country per capita. I doubt they have the resources or the system to do contact tracing and telling everyone in a relatively poor country to starve rather than risk getting an infection is a doomed policy.
    They are a big narco country this would undermine travel restrictions.
    It is very interesting because they implemented an extreme policy and got extreme results.

  10. Deap says:

    I fear death as the cause of my death, since most obituaries I now read locally are people younger than myself. It is not right to shut down the entire country because a few of us old folks might be at higher risk.
    Don’t do this in our name. Do it for the real reason – maintaining Democrat fear and control in order to blame Trump right up until election day. Today just making that statement risks death far more than any random covid droplet.

  11. JamesT says:

    You have great stories, Colonel.

  12. Deap says:

    CDC website: Malaria Transmission in Nicaragua:
    Areas with malaria: Present in Región Autónoma Atlántico Norte (RAAN) and Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur (RAAS). Rare cases in Boaco, Chinandega, Esteli, Jinotega, Leon, Matagalpa, and Nueva Segovia. No malaria in the city of Managua (see Map 2-20).
    Estimated relative risk of malaria for US travelers:
    Drug resistance4: None.
    Malaria species: P. vivax 90%, P. falciparum 10%.
    Recommended chemoprophylaxis: Región Autónoma Atlántico Norte (RAAN) and Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur (RAAS): Atovaquone-proguanil, chloroquine, doxycycline, mefloquine, or tafenoquine.4 Other areas with malaria: None (practice mosquito avoidance).”
    (Emphasis added)

  13. rho says:

    I don’t think all these comparisons are very meaningful when the amount of COVID testing and the classification of what exactly is a “COVID death” are so wildly different around the world.
    The country with the second highest amount of COVID fatalities in the world relative to its population is… Belgium. (901 per million inhabitants, versus Peru’s 1035 per million inhabitants) Belgium also has the most wide-ranging definition of what a “COVID death” is, they classify any dead person with a positive COVID test or who observed any “COVID symptoms” (which would include something as mundane as “coughing” or “fever”) as a “COVID death”, even if there is an obvious alternative cause of death, like terminal cancer.
    On the other hand, the African country of Eritrea officially reports zero COVID deaths. Cambodia, just like Mongolia, also reports zero deaths. Does anybody seriously believe that?
    The one robust conclusion that can be drawn, in my opinion, is that you can prevent people from dying of genuine COVID symptoms if you have sufficient hospital intensive care beds. Peru definitely does not have these, their hospitals got overwhelmed early in the crisis and many places in Peru are far away from a hospital that could provide specialised intensive care. And without intensive medical care, old people with severe cases have a high risk of dying. Most COVID infected never need any intensive medical care, but for those who do, whether they have fast access to intensive medical care seems to determine their chances of survival.
    The hospital beds statistic would also partially explain why UK has a higher death rate than France, and why France has a higher one than Germany, even though all 3 countries ran similar containment strategies and have similar population demographics, and not too wildly differing ways of testing for COVID and for classifying deaths, which is always a prerequisite if you want to extract anything meaningful from the data.
    I guess the British NHS should have cut spending within their administration side, but not in the hospitals that they ran and with the beds they provide.

  14. Deap says:

    Other than the capitol of Ulaan Bator, there are very few concentrated population settlements in Mongolia. It remains mainly a nomadic, small family, yurt (ger) dwelling nation. Lots of social distancing in Mongolia. Lots of fresh air in Mongolia. Plus they typically use herbals and botanicals as their folk medicine. Is there a clue in that? As well as a wee bit of alcohol. I suspect it based more upon their relative remoteness, as well as inabiliyt to track useful data in a nomadic population.

  15. A.I.S. says:

    Concerning Mongolia looking quite good:
    1: Mongolia has a “CDC” equivalent that is actually not a vaccine company, that is competent, relatively well resourced and well respected. This is partly due to Mongolia being an endemic reservoir of Jersinia Pestis (the charming fellow that causes the black death) and some other critters.
    2: Mongolia rapidly closed it borders with China, but also with Italy soon after. Many countries did fine by closing borders with China, but many countries (such as Russia) then screwed up by not closing borders with Italy/the EU. The EUs culplability/screw up factor is underappreciated. I say this as a European.
    3: Mongolia has very few nursing homes. A lot of anomalously good looking countries regarding covid fatalities can be readily explained by looking at the percentage of old people not in nursing homes. I would further add that Chinese seniors tend to be on the fitter side as well.

  16. lizzie dw says:

    Early treatment must be mentioned. If you catch this flu, immediately start a medication. The regimen of hdcq plus zinc plus azithromycin has had good results, per reports. Remdesivir also plus zinc plus doxycycline. There are others I am sure. Do not wait until you are sick enough to go to the hospital. Early treatment will hopefully keep you out of there and keep you alive. Those with co-morbidities – obesity, diabetes, heart problems – stay home no matter what your age, but the rest of everybody can go about their business.

  17. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    lizzie dw,
    Beyond your good suggestions, the prophylaxis of maintaining a high level of Vitamin D in the body also seems to be a good policy. I rather suspect that had this nutrient been more carefully maintained in those with comorbidities, whether in a home or institutional living setting, infections and bad outcomes would have been much reduced.

  18. walrus says:

    Our lockdown has worked, but at a cost because a lockdown is only one third of the solution. The other two segments are aggressive and efficient fast contact tracing and an effective quarantine and treatment regime for potentially infectious contacts.
    We’ve got the cases down but it’s taken far too long because of sloppy contact tracing and ineffective containment of contacts.
    Case in point; our second wave. Last outbreak – a shopping mall, index case a cleaner – too poor to stop working and no supplementary payment, so he goes to work sick and infects staff at a shopping mall butcher shop.
    One of his contacts is a truck driver who often does runs for untraceable cash. So he does runs to Kilmore and Shepparton, without telling anyone he is moonlighting. He starts outbreaks in those towns.
    Result? Thousands of tests and further lockdowns in two towns because a truck driver needed a few hundred bucks.
    Our state government got the lockdown right, but fudged the other two segments.

  19. English Outsider says:

    Fred – I think Germany got masks ordered in good time too. Though I’m aware there’s still debate about whether the ones for the public are any good.
    But I was really saying that next time round we’d perhaps all do better to start border controls straight off. Difficult and expensive but not as bad as what we landed up with.
    Fred – on another subject,it’s around four years ago that I wrote into SST asking you if we’d arrived at “peak prog”.
    Stupid question, in retrospect. Since then prog’s gone exponential both here and in the States. But dare I repeat the question now? Prog used to be, I don’t know if it still is, a field you devoted particular attention to. D’you reckon it will go any further. Is there room for it to go any further?

  20. Deap says:

    Recent report – “Flu” cases dropped 85-95% during the “covid pandemic”.
    Because of improved hygiene and contact prevention stopped the regular flu in its tracks?
    Or because covid is just a really bad case of the flu seasonal this year. Which means of course there will now be a “second wave”.
    Trust, but verify. Need to find this cite.

  21. Fred says:

    The Germans ordered masks on time? Really, good for them. Was that a centralized federal government order or every hospital? The US health care system isn’t centralized, a fact discussed here at length. Border controls? You mean the ones the left denounced as racisist? See the “No Ban Act” proposed in April.
    “peak prog” They have progressed into marxism and are yearning for year zero.
    Congratulations on the destruction of small businesses and the indepence of the non-multimillionaire segment of your society. Do you plan on doing that every flu season, since those viruses are also highly contagous and highly survivable too, just like Covid19.

  22. Fred says:

    If you took a cursory hour over the past months to look into flu you would know there is no systemic testing for those viruses anywhere in the US and never has been, thus all case loads are simply estimates based of hospital reports and mathematical modeling.

  23. English Outsider says:

    Fred – I believe it was a Federal initiative. The German health system is not as centralised as the UK’s and I don’t know how distribution went after that. But they got hold of just about everything going. Gave rise to some envious comment later.
    I think the WHO failure to call for travel restrictions at the very start was crucial. Might still have been too late. The contacts between the large Chinese population in Italy and China occurred before anyone really knew what was happening, but for the UK and Germany later maybe travel restrictions would have helped.
    All the talk at one time was of German and English skiers bringing the infection back from Ischgl and such places. Seems to have been one giant measles party. I knew some people who got it that way and as for the fourteen days isolation, forget it. Many didn’t bother.
    As late as February the WHO was saying the risk was small and wasn’t recommending travel restrictions. Trump was out on his own among the major Western countries in putting in some restrictions before that (though only partial) and if I remember accurately got criticised at the time for doing so.
    By the very people who are now saying he should have done more! I saw Mrs Pelosi stating in terms he was responsible for 200 thousand deaths and more. And no doubt many believed her.
    The EU stuck more to the WHO guidelines and didn’t take action until much later – 17th March, I believe. Wiki quotes this reason for the delay –
    “After some EU member states announced complete closure of their national borders to foreign nationals,[8] the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “Certain controls may be justified, but general travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization.”[9] A few days later the EU closed its external borders.[10]”
    So Trump was ahead of the pack.
    But for travel restrictions to work they’d have to be early, rigorous and coordinated. Next time perhaps.

  24. Fred says:

    “before anyone really knew what was happening”. I think the is incorrect. The communist government of China new what was going on. They closed internal travel out of Wuhan provence and let all the international travel proceed knowing this would spread the virus everywhere.

  25. Christian J. Chuba says:

    English Outsider, regarding, “As late as February the WHO was saying the risk was small and wasn’t recommending travel restrictions.”
    WHO rated the risk of a global outbreak of Covid due to human to human transmission as ‘high’ on Jan 24. I don’t think they want to get involved in travel policy, they inform the risk and let countries decide what to do. They did recommend temperature screening and noted that Japan and other East Asian countries had implemented travel restrictions.
    BTW Fred, I just love that Congressional Bill ending fighting travel bans, 214 co-sponsors. Wow! Talk about being tone deaf.
    But I was impressed that Nancy Pelosi was smart enough not to join that clown car.

    24 January 2020
    “WHO assesses the risk of this event to be very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level

    Trump’s China travel ban was fine but his mistake was in waiting 6wks before restricting travel from Europe. Our travel policies are influenced by our alliances.

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