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Guatemala was not ready to deal with a health catastrophe

The population was already highly vulnerable before the pandemic and with it, it became even more so due to a lack of continuity of the projects, despite the fact that Covid-19 is still very present in families.


This has been revealed by the study conducted by the Laboratorio de Datos GT, Oxfam two years after the detection of the first case of Covid-19 in Guatemala, a country that is suffering from paying the human, social and economic costs.

On 13 March 2020, President Alejandro Giammattei announced on national television the entry of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the disease, into the country after it was identified in a passenger from Madrid, Spain, after a trip through Europe. Since then and to date, the board of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MSPAS) has recorded 804,709 cases and confirmed 17,144 deaths with positive tests, the latter figure being the highest in Central America.

Just after the Giammattei Government was installed (14 January 2020), the Covid-19 virus gave it no respite, and on 17 March it announced the closure of the borders, the suspension of the recently commenced school year and successive curfews, among other measures, continuing until September 2021. After this month, the partial opening of the economy began in the midst of the crisis.

The first escalation of cases began in May 2020 and peaked at the beginning of July, with an average of 1,200 infected daily officially recorded, an almost insignificant amount in relation to reports worldwide, but enough to blow up the weak public health system of this nation.

A second wave reached its peak in the first days of January 2021, but the third put doctors and hospitals in a tight spot due to an increase in infections from mid-April to the end of August, with a maximum of 3,800 new positives, due, in large part, to the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

To date, the fourth wave, which began in January 2022 and is characterised by the predominance of Ómicron, continues to wreak havoc, albeit less so due to the impact of vaccination and in spite of questions to the Government about the mismanagement of the pandemic and the use of the resources to fight it.

A recent study by the independent Laboratorio de Datos GT, Oxfam Guatemala and Paraiso Desigual reveals the human, social and economic costs of the phenomenon.

In its report “Inequality and vaccines”, the source affirms that “although the Guatemalan authorities boast of being the least affected country in its macroeconomic figures in all of Latin America, this fact masks the enormous negative repercussions of a poorly managed pandemic and the lack of effective measures for dealing with crises”.

In particular, for thousands of households and sectors of the real economy such as agriculture, tourism, hotels, restaurants, micro, small and medium-sized businesses and the informal sector. The laboratory mentions among the lessons derived from Covid-19 that have not yet been learned, the fact that this nation was not ready to face a health crisis, much less one of global scope, and it is still in the same position.

Among the causes of the poor response capacity of the MSPAS, it mentions historical systemic failures such as the Government’s weak political, technical and legal capacity to exercise its role of stewardship and regulation of the health sector; insufficient public financing, a predominance of private spending from the taxpayer’s pocket and a poor supply of primary health care.

It also attributes failure to the abandonment of essential Public Health and its emphasis as a purchasing agent to private providers and the impact of corruption and influence peddling.

Another controversial issue in the study points to the National Anti-Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, which turned one year old on 25 February with only 32.1% of the total population with the recommended two doses and a marked disparity between urban and rural areas. (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin) – Photos: Pixabay

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