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By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA, Brazil, Fri. Oct 15, 2021 (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused such extreme unemployment and poverty in Latin America that a “statistical rebound” in growth this year will not be enough to overcome it, regional United Nations organizations said in a Thursday report.

Latin America’s economy is expected to grow 5.9% this year and 2.9% in 2022, said the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), sticking to a prior forecast.

However, that is not enough to recover from the social and public health crises triggered by COVID-19, which drove economic output 6.8% lower in 2020.

With just 8.4% of the world’s population, Latin America’s 1.5 million deaths registered from COVID-19 accounted for about 30% of the global death toll, making it the hardest hit corner of the planet.

“An economic bounce-back alone will not be sufficient to recover from the pandemic,” said the report on public health, economy and social fallout from COVID-19 in the region.

PAHO Director Carissa Etienne and ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena said there would be no robust recovery without a resolution of the public health crisis in the region, where only 39% of people have been vaccinated.

“It is thus all the more important to ensure the provision of essential health services in the midst of a prolonged pandemic, where mass vaccination is one of the main challenges countries must to bring the pandemic under control, supported by social protection and public health measures,” the report said.

The organizations urged the reinforcement of healthcare systems with increased public spending and improved primary health services.

Barcena said the region’s economies would see a “statistical rebound” this year that is not expected to continue into 2022.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle Editing by Brad Haynes and Diane Craft)

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