Peru has recorded its highest in one day of coronavirus-related deaths, as millions of people across the South American country prepare to go to the polls to elect a new president and congress over the weekend next.
The country’s health ministry said 294 deaths were recorded on Saturday, up from a previous record of 277 deaths reported in August.
More than 5,600 new cases of COVID-19 have also been reported in Peru, the country among others in Latin America struggling to contain a recent outbreak of infections caused in part by new, more easily transmitted strains of the virus.
Neighboring Chile recently postponed a vote to elect an assembly to draft a new constitution due to the increased coronavirus infections, but Peru is moving ahead and plans to hold its elections on April 11.
An opinion poll released Thursday by Datum Internacional found that populist presidential front-runner Yonhy Lescano had consolidated his lead over five other contenders vying for second place ahead of a likely June run-off.
Lescano, of the Popular Action Party, had 12.1% support, placing him at the top of the group of 18 candidates, but far from the 50% needed to avoid a second round.
The poll showed Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, with 7.9% support; former football goalkeeper George Forsyth with 7.4% and ultra-conservative Rafael Lopez Aliaga with 7.2%.
Liberal economist Hernando de Soto had 6.5% and leftist candidate Veronica Mendoza 5.7%.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged Peru’s economy, which has witnessed political turmoil over the past year amid corruption allegations against former President Martin Vizcarra.
In February, it was revealed that Vizcarra, along with nearly 500 Peruvian government officials, took advantage of their connections to take turns receiving COVID-19 vaccines. The scandal prompted the country’s health and foreign Affairs ministers to resign.
Mariana Sanchez of Al Jazeera, of the capital Lima, said the pandemic had plunged Peru deeper into political and economic uncertainty, and recent polls show up to 30% of Peruvians will vote blank next Sunday.
“Many believe that the elections will not guarantee political stability,” Sanchez said.
“The candidates do nothing for us. They don’t keep their promises. These are just words, ”said Peruvian voter Eufrasia Hurtado. “I will vote white because they are all the same.”
Political analyst Giovanna Penaflor told Al Jazeera that the political scene is “so weak and so limited” in Peru that few people consider presidential candidates a good option.
“It’s like the Titanic is falling and someone said pick a new captain, but everyone is looking for a lifeboat.”
At the same time, the recent increase in coronavirus infections in Peru and elsewhere in Latin America, which has pushed health networks to their limits and leads to greater poverty and economic insecurity, prompted warnings from experts.
The head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said last week that Peru was one of many countries in the region – alongside Brazil and Paraguay – to experience high numbers of coronavirus-related deaths .
“During the first months of the year, the availability of oxygen and anesthetics was threatened by the rapidity of new cases flooding hospitals in Brazil, Peru and elsewhere,” Carissa Etienne said in a statement. . Report.
Etienne warned that without preventive action, the region could see a more severe peak in coronavirus infections than what she experienced last year.
“So let me be as clear as possible. My top tips for places with peaks in transmission can be summed up in two words: stay home, ”she said.