With the number of coronavirus cases in South America multiplying daily, governments in the region continue to tighten measures to restrict physical contact and prevent the spread of the disease with varied success.    

Brazil 

Brazil remains divided between those who support isolation measures and President Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the importance of the virus. 

At a time when Brazil has surpassed the 16,000 threshold for confirmed cases, Bolsonaro, who has minimized the danger of the epidemic, has questioned the restrictive measures taken to contain the virus in the most affected states. He even publicly threatened to fire his Health Minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who has supported the proposed lockdowns.  

The minister's position received widespread support, which led Bolsonaro to say “nobody should forget that I am the president.” 

The disagreement between the two men is just one event in a growing conflict between the right-wing leader and Brazil’s state governors over how to face the coronavirus crisis. 

Meanwhile, in the absence of government assistance, residents of favelas, or slums, have hired their own ambulances, made their own protective masks and are taking turns patrolling the streets to identify those who might be infected. By taking care of each other, they hope to survive the coronavirus. 

Brazilian authorities recently reported more than 130 deaths in a single day for the first time, bringing the death toll to 800. According to Mandetta, however, the worst is yet to come. 

Ecuador 

With a population of 17 million, Ecuador has one of the highest official rates of coronavirus infections and deaths in the region. 

There are at least 220 dead and more than 4,000 confirmed cases, but President Lenín Moreno has admitted the numbers are likely higher. 

Temporary morgues have been set up throughout Guayaquil, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, where government officials are giving local residents cardboard coffins made by companies that usually package bananas. 

Venezuela  

Not even the coronavirus can ease the tensions between Venezuela and Colombia’s leaders. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered to donate two Chinese-made COVID-19 testing machines to Colombia as a humanitarian gesture. But Colombia's refusal to accept the donation prompted a reaction from the Venezuelan government. 

"The Government of Ivan Duque rejected the two COVID-19 diagnostic machines donated by President Nicolas Maduro...One more sign of Ivan Duque's disregard for the life and health of the Colombian people and its sanitary repercussions in the region," Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Twitter a few days ago. 

President Duque said Tuesday that his government would not accept the donation because the World Health Organization confirmed the machines are not compatible with the techniques used in the country to detect the disease. 

As economies shut down in neighboring countries, thousands of Venezuelan migrants have returned home in recent days amid the coronavirus epidemic.  

With 166 cases and seven deaths reported Wednesday, Maduro is ordering the hospitalization of all people who test positive after learning that a 32-year-old woman was infected by her brother who was in home isolation. 

Colombia 

A United Arab Emirates plane carrying 10 metric tons of medical supplies arrived in Colombia Wednesday to assist the country in combating the pandemic. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Claudia Blum thanked the UAE government for the donation, which will benefit over 10,000 healthcare professionals. 

“The donation will allow for increased speed in processing COVID-19 tests in the country, which will undoubtedly expand and strengthen the capabilities of health institutions to deal with this emergency more effectively,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release. 

Following an agreement between Emirati and Colombian authorities, the plane also repatriated 63 Colombian citizens, including Colombian sprint star Fernando Gaviria, who spent 50 days recovering from the virus in the UAE. 

Colombia has 2,054 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 55 deaths. Mandatory isolation has been extended until April 26 as decreed by President Duque. 

Chile 

Despite security and health measures put in place by President Sebastian Pinera's government to control the pandemic, Chile has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in Latin America.  

There are 5,546 confirmed cases and 48 deaths so far. Some 286 health officials have been infected, three of whom are seriously ill and connected to ventilators. 

The Ministry of Health has distributed thousands of tests to different regions in order to determine the actual number of infected cases.  

In a region where the informal economy prevails, most governments have announced stimulus packages to help low-income families cope with the effects of the quarantine.