In her first public pronouncements Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti has stressed the difficult decisions that lie ahead – opting for reopening versus continued lockdown – and the dire state in which the health system finds itself as a consequence of Covid-19. For the moment, she says, echoing statements by President Martín Vizcarra, there will be no immediate return to lockdown despite the upward spiral in the number of people affected.

However, the health system is increasingly unable to deal with the spread of the virus, especially in the south of the country. Arequipa is one of the regions worst hit. People are dying waiting to access hospitals, in their homes and in the street. Bodies are reported to be decomposing in the corridors of the Honorario Delgado Espinoza hospital in Arequipa. Oxygen is being administered to people in cars waiting in the hospital carpark.

In Cuzco, the situation is not quite as bad, but the number of cases continues to rise rapidly. Lack of self-distancing has been made more acute by the lifting of the quarantine. The regional health director expects the health system to be overwhelmed in the course of the next ten days. There are only 24 intensive care beds for a population of 1.3 million. The quarantine has had to be reimposed in La Convención province.

As of 17 July, the total number of cases of Covid-19 in the country as a whole stood at over 345,500 while the tally of registered deaths was 12,799. There are no signs of the contagion tapering off.