COVID-19 cases rise in Uruguay in March

Cases increased dramatically in March —compared to what we'd seen until now. Guru'Guay gives you an overview from the ground of what's happening in Uruguay.
By Karen A Higgs
Last updated on March 31, 2021

If you recall Uruguay had a “great pandemic” for the first nine months. Our first wave only finally came just before Christmas 2020—and we’re still in it. In January and February new daily cases oscillated between 300 and 800 per day until March when numbers shot up to a peak of 2935 cases on March 27.

On March 21 the ministry of health published a new statistical report which showed that the Brazilian variant P1 had been detected in at least seven departments. Not unexpected considering Uruguay shares an open border around a thousand kilometres long with Brazil.

People were asking themselves if we put our guards down because the vaccines had arrived or if the increase is due to P1. Unfortunately reports today showed that P1 is only responsible currently for 15% of cases.

Only 2% of infections are traced from international travel. Most probably the consequence of the borders have remained closed since March 13 2020.

The dramatic rise, in perspective

However it’s important to keep the current figures in perspective—by looking at numbers of cases proportionally per 100,000 people. Here’s a graphic to compare the US, UK, Brazil, Uruguay and Estonia.

I included Estonia 🇪🇪 as it has an even smaller population than Uruguay 🇺🇾–1.23 million people compared to Uruguay’s 3.5 million–and like Uruguay had been doing well in the pandemic. In fact, perhaps it still is as transmission remains clustered. (Uruguay and Estonia are both members of the Digital 9, digital government leaders).

However you can see that Estonians have experienced almost three times more deaths from Covid than Uruguay.

WHO Coronavirus Dashboard shows statistics from March 24 2021
WHO Coronavirus Dashboard shows statistics from March 24 2021

Uruguay #2 in the world vaccination rates

It’s hard to get hold of vaccines when you are a small country and Uruguay was the last country to receive doses in the whole of Latin America 💉

Our vaccinations finally began on March 1. Our World In Data showed Uruguay at number 2 in the world for rate of vaccines administered (March 30), vaccinating at a rate of just under 1% of the entire population per day. To have the same result, the US would have to vaccinate 3 million people a day.

Daily Covid vaccine doses administered per 100 people (March 30 2021)
Daily Covid vaccine doses administered per 100 people (March 30 2021)

The rapid roll-out is a consequence of the efficiency of the Uruguayan health system combined with a small population, a gently rolling landscape making transportation simple, and a public accustomed to getting vaccinated to start school or use a sports facility.

When the numbers rose so dramatically, we were expecting stricter measures to be announced 🚫 However the government is still relying on people to behave responsibly. In the last quarter of March, the one major measure announced was that school attendance (school children had just begun the academic year on site) was no longer compulsory. However on March 30, the decision was taken to not reopen education establishments until April 12 at the earliest.

On March 31 (the time of writing), bars and restaurants were still open but must close by midnight. We’re all still wearing masks in public places and social distance of course.

Watch this space

It’s likely there will be new measures announced as the number of people in intensive care is rising by 20-40 people per day and Uruguay has less than one thousand ICU beds in total.

The latest on the pandemic in Uruguay

Jan 10 2023 The Uruguay government declared the end of the health emergency on April 1 2022 after 752 days. 82% of the population has received at least two shots.  

In April, it will be a year since my Medium article In a pandemic, there is no place I’d rather be than Uruguay went viral. You may recall I wrote a series of articles for El País, Uruguay’s oldest national daily 🗞 covering the stories of travellers who had found themselves stuck in Uruguay when the borders closed. Last week I went back and talked to Kris and Ryan from California, also Chris from New York, Kate from Russia and Heidi from San Francisco to find out whether they are still in Uruguay and what they are up to. Take a peek. I think you’ll love it—did you know that there is now a bakery in Las Vegas named after a cow from Colonia de Sacramento? 🐄

I hope you’re doing well and wherever you are things are under control ♥️

This information is provided as a public service by Guru’Guay. It first appeared in a slightly different format in our newsletter. To get regular updates about Uruguay you can sign up here.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related articles

Uruguay travel entry requirements

Traveling to Uruguay? Entry requirements were updated by the government in August 2022. Check out Uruguay travel restrictions at this time.

Copy link