People wearing protective face masks are seen with donated aid for poor families, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 21, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
The epicenter of COVID-19 "is moving from Europe toward the Americas," Cristian Morales Fuhrimann, representative of the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in Mexico, warned on Wednesday.
The Americas have had "a bit more time to prepare for what is coming," Morales said via videoconference in Mexico City, noting the continents of North and South America have already seen 925,291 infections and 44,000 deaths.
"What we cannot escape is that we are about to experience the worst period of the epidemic in the region and in Mexico," he said.
In Mexico, which has reported 10,544 confirmed cases and 970 deaths as of Wednesday according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the public needs to cooperate with social distancing and hygienic measures to ensure that hospitals are not overrun with patients, he added.
In South America, Chile has reported 11,296 confirmed cases and 160 deaths, after 464 new infections were detected in the past 24 hours and 13 more patients died.
Chilean authorities have announced a tentative reopening of the economy and schools in May.
Peru has registered 19,250 cases and 530 deaths, with 1,413 new infections detected in the past day.
"This virus is very contagious and jumps from person to person when they are together. So whatever activity that has to return to normal will have to take precautions to ensure this contact does not happen," Peruvian Health Minister Victor Zamora said, noting the government is being very careful about lifting lockdown measures.
Peru's lockdown was set to end on April 26, but the Medical College of Peru recommended it be extended for another two weeks.
Brazil, Latin America's largest country, reported on Wednesday that cases rose from 43,079 to 45,757, while the death toll climbed from 2,741 to 2,906, with a mortality rate of 6.4 percent.
Brazil's second-largest city Rio de Janeiro has seen an surge in infections that have overloaded its hospitals, with no more beds available in intensive care units, according to local media.
In Ecuador, health authorities said 10,850 people have tested positive and 537 have died, while another 952 fatalities are suspected of being COVID-19-related, Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said in her daily press briefing.