As coronavirus hits South America, Brazil's president mocks the threat

Latin America struggles with coronavirus
Latin America struggles with coronavirus 02:17

South America is struggling to stop the coronavirus from spreading, and cases in countries like Brazil and Ecuador are likely being underreported, researchers say. Brazil has reported more than 25,000 cases, but researchers believe the real number could be 10 times higher.

Protecting Brazil's poorest neighborhoods is often a do-it-yourself project. Locals were seen fumigating on their own and makers of Carnaval costumes are sewing medical scrubs.

Even as cases spike, the country's autocratic president, Jair Bolsonaro, continues to mock the virus' threat, posting on YouTube cheery appearances at doughnut shops and glad-handing with supporters.

Just two countries over, in Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, nearly 2,000 bodies have reportedly been collected for burial, some in cardboard caskets. Many were left in the streets for days.  

"This is a generational event," Dr. Luis Yepez told CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez from Guayaquil's largest hospital. "We've never lived through an emergency like this."

The biggest problem, he said, "is that when social distancing was requested, people didn't take it as seriously as they should have."

Many found social distancing impossible, said Alexandra Moncada, the director of the organization Care in Ecuador.

"People cannot afford to stay in their houses if they have no income," she said. 

Moncada said Latin America's severe inequalities, poor social safety net and fragile infrastructure were all laid bare in Guayaquil, a warning for the region as the virus spreads.

"If our governors don't provide examples and have clear messages that the population should stick to … it's more difficult to ensure a rapid overcome of the situation," she said.