By Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) - Peru said on Thursday it registered a record high of 11,260 new coronavirus cases in a single day as it suffers from the spread of a more contagious variant first identified in Brazil, a shortage of medical equipment, and overstretched hospitals.
Peru's total caseload since the virus first hit in March last year is now 1,492,519 and 50,656 deaths, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday night.
During the first wave of infections, Peru reached its peak with 10,143 infected on Aug. 16, according to official data.
In this second wave, the country is seeing the impact of a new COVID variant known as P1 first discovered in neighbouring Brazil. Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay are also seeing infections peak, according to data gathered by Reuters https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/index.html.
A total of 40% of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Peruvian capital Lima are the Brazilian variant, which entered the Amazon region in the north-east of the country at the beginning of the year, the government said on Wednesday.
Paraguayan authorities confirmed on Thursday that the P1 variant had been confirmed as circulating in various regions, and was "probably" now the most prevalent strain in the country, said Guillermo Sequera, a Paraguayan public health official.
COVID-19 cases in Paraguay rose sharply in March, resulting in 100% occupancy of intensive care beds and prompting the government to declare a strict quarantine during Easter.
Peru's new infection record comes as millions of Peruvians are due to vote in presidential and congressional elections on April 11.
The government has insisted the polls will not be postponed but carried out under strict health regulations.
The Andean nation of some 33 million inhabitants launched its COVID vaccine drive in February using a drug manufactured by Chinese pharmaceutical Sinopharm. So far it has received 1 million doses of a total agreed purchase of 38 million. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta)
It has also received 317,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine both through a bilateral deal and the COVAX vaccine alliance facility.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Daniela Desantis; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Sonya Hepinstall)