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LatAm in Focus: How Uruguay Got It Right

A reopened Montevideo public school. (AP)

A reopened Montevideo public school. (AP)

July 16, 2020

As we look around the world at how countries handled the pandemic, tales of missteps abound. But there are also the stories of those who have managed it well. Uruguay—the only Latin American country whose nationals are currently allowed into the European Union—falls into the latter category. As of July 14, the country only had 997 confirmed cases and 31 deaths

So how did the Uruguayans do it? Dr. Giovanni Escalante, country representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Uruguay, covers the COVID-19 response, from the voluntary lockdown to early tracking of potential cases to an active epidemiological surveillance system that mapped contagion. “Integrated response systems are critical to address these public health emergencies, meaning a nationally agreed plan with the best collaboration schemes [and] with clear decisions based on rationality and evidence,” he tells AS/COA Online’s Luisa Horwitz.

Dr. Escalante credited Uruguay’s integrated healthcare system, which has seen sustained investment for almost fifteen years. “Almost 100 percent of Uruguayans receive a comprehensive package of health services,” says the health expert. “There is a social net to avoid the catastrophic consequences of the pandemic.” On top of that, public-private partnerships demonstrated a strong sense of corporate social responsibility to address the public health crisis.

But community willingness to follow guidelines played a role in containing contagion. “For Uruguayans, the voluntary scheme was, in real action, auto-enforced,” says Dr. Escalante. The public health expert also delves into Uruguay’s place in the region, from collaborating to control the outbreak in cities on the Brazil border to similar steps taken in neighboring Paraguay.



Luisa Horwitz and Luisa Leme produced this episode. The music in this podcast was performed at Americas Society in New York. Learn more about upcoming concerts at musicoftheamericas.org.