David vs. Goliath: How tiny country Uruguay beat Covid-19

Latin America has become the new COVID-19 infection focus while Europe is slowly recovering from the economic and tragic hit. Uruguay, the small country between Brazil and Argentina with just over 3 million people (almost like the state of Iowa) is the exception to the rule and became the first country in South America to launch a Google application that tracks virus cases. Both Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, and Apple CEO, Tim Cook, congratulated the country for their incredible performance in the pandemic. Yaay reporter Stephanie Martínez tells the story in the following video.

By  Estefanía Martínez
  • Uruguay had almost 850 confirmed COVID-19 cases and less than 25 deaths. That’s almost 30 times fewer deaths per inhabitants that its neighbor Brazil, who is slowly becoming the worst COVID-19 affected country in the world. 
  • United States is following Brazil steps and becoming the worst scenario in both North and South America.
  • Interestingly, half of the infected cases in Uruguay are traced to a high-society fashion designer called Carmela Hontou. 
  • The country became famous after being the only one in the continent that legalized abortion and marijuana.

Carmela Hontou is a 57-year-old high society fashion designer. She travelled to Milan, Italy, the fashion capital of the world and Madrid, Spain in February and March. When she returned to Uruguay (feeling sick) she attended a 400 guest wedding from former students of the British School, one of Uruguay’s most expensive high schools with famous alumni like the current President of the Republic, Luis Lacalle Pou.

Fashion Uruguayan designer Carmela Hontou in her boutique

After the wedding, Hontou started feeling sick but defended herself saying nobody at the airport had asked her anything. The entire country was outraged after a TV interview where she blamed the authorities for "not controlling her exhaustively". She was accused of being the main responsible for the virus and her name came out in every media outlet.

She also said that she had a fever while in Madrid. The fashion designer may be facing prison, accused of "spreading contagious diseases".

How did Uruguay overcome the virus?

Uruguay´s summer paradise, Punta del Este

One of Uruguay's main export is software. There are a great number of successful software companies that work for the US. Thanks to that bond and a great political system, the country became eligible for the new Google program called Exposure Notifications API. The application in Uruguay is called Plan Nacional Coronavirus. The letter of Sundar Pichai stated “My thoughts are with you and the people of Uruguay. On behalf of Google, I would like to extend our thanks to you and your government for your proactive efforts to ensure the health and well-being of the people”. After all of this, Uruguay has become the David against Goliath in this global pandemic fight.

Google CEO´s Sundar Pichai letter to Uruguay authorities 

The way Uruguay has been dealing with coronavirus has news coverage worldwide. Recently, the European Union, prohibited the United States, Russia and every country of Latin America except Uruguay the entry to their continent.

Fremantle newspaper thanks Uruguay for the Greg Mortimer operation

Uruguay has also gained recognition for the way the country, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, economist Ernesto Talvi, handled the situation with passengers aboard the cruise ship Greg Mortimer, which was docked in Uruguayan waters for almost 2 months.

Update: In the last days, Uruguay received 60 more positive cases of coronavirus in Treinta y Tres, the department with a big frontier line with Brazil, one of the world’s most affected countries by the virus. Also in Maldonado, in the famous city of Punta del Este (the St. Tropez from South America) appeared 2 more cases from Argentinians who came with the virus via ship. 

More News