The astounding COVID-19 death tolls in Mexico and Brazil add to fears of the disease surging in Latin America. In Peru, traditional trading centers recently showed shocking levels of infection, revealing that the virus continues to spread despite the enforcement of social distancing measures.

The first countries in Latin America to be infected with the virus were Mexico and Brazil, the presidents of which were both criticized for previously downplaying the pandemic. As the coronavirus infiltrated the two countries, neighboring countries started to identify cases of the virus within their borders until everything has gone out of hand. Today, the coronavirus has totally spread across Latin America and many believe that trading centers in different parts of the region are to be blamed for it.

In one major fruit market in Lima, Peru, seventy-nine percent of stall-holders recently tested positive for COVID-19. Spot tests in five other large food markets in the city also revealed that at least half of stall holders were already carriers of the coronavirus. Currently, the number of infections in the country stands at 90,000.

Since people flock into trading centers, authorities from different countries in Latin America struggle to enforce strict social distancing measures. As infections grow, fears also grow that the virus will continue to spread not only to thousands of retailers and customers but also to lorry drivers traveling from one region to another.

Despite the growing number of infections, Peru’s president, Martin Vizcarra, still refuses to shut down the country’s trading centers, arguing that it could only create food shortages. However, critics believe the current figures in Peru are already a bombshell and that it’s about time for the government to declare a sanitary emergency.

“Markets were probably the biggest vector of infection which is why Peru’s quarantine did not work as it should have,” said principal investigator Eduardo Zegarra. “I fear that could trigger a second wave of the pandemic. The contagion among merchants is terribly high and we don’t know how long they’ve had it or how many people they’ve passed it on to,” he added.

Despite markets and trading centers being tied closely to the spread of COVID-19 in Latin America, authorities struggle to totally shut them down as they occupy a vital place in Latin American culture and economy. In Colombia, health minister Alejandro Gomez explained that while governments could have done better in controlling the operation of trading centers during the pandemic, these markets are important in preventing food shortages.  

In other parts of Latin America, some markets have already started operating at just 30 to 60 percent of their capacities. However, few customers still come to these trading places without keeping their distance or wearing masks.

COVID-19 Coronavirus is spreading worldwide and countries are doing their best to flatten the curve. Photo by: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay