Document Type : Perspective
University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
INESC TEC - Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science, Porto, Portugal
ISPGAYA - Polytechnic Higher Institute of Gaya, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has created strong pressure on national health critical care systems. After its initial impact in Asia, the highest case growth is now in the Americas. The South American countries face a strong challenge due to the vulnerabilities of their health systems and the fragile socio-economic conditions of their population. This perspective looks at the impact of COVID-19 in South America and argues that the health critical care systems of these countries are particularly vulnerable due to the underestimation of the number of cases currently confirmed and the strong need for treatment of these patients in intensive care units (ICUs). In particular, Bolivia will need to increase the number of ICU beds 60-fold while Brazil will need to grow 12-fold to meet the growth rates of COVID-19 by the end of July 2020. In this sense, it is argued that national and transnational measures should be taken urgently to face this challenge. Furthermore, it is necessary to perform tests to detect COVID-19 cases earlier to alleviate the need for internment in ICUs.