Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2021. 10:39 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Over the last week, countries in the Americas reported 1.1 million new COVID-19 cases and over 25,000 deaths, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), with cases and deaths beginning to rise in Central and South America and the Caribbean after plateauing or decreasing for weeks.
Central America is reporting the highest number of deaths. Infections are increasing in Panama, Belize, and El Salvador, where new cases have doubled in the last seven days.
In South America, Colombia is reporting the highest rate of infections in South America. Brazil is also seeing a rise in new infections and hospitalizations. Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile continue to report a rise in cases.
Many Caribbean islands, including Sint Maarten, Trinidad, and Tobago and the Dominican Republic, are reporting a surge in infections.
But in a weekly media briefing, PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne named the French-speaking country of Haiti as the area of most immediate concern, warning that the COVID-19 response there must be scaled up dramatically to cope with sharply escalating cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in recent weeks.
“We call on partners and organizations working in Haiti to urgently reinforce the response to COVID-19. The country will need additional health capacity, as well as support to embrace preventive measures required to curb transmission. Both will be decisive in the coming weeks. There is no time to waste.”
PAHO has joined with the country’s Ministry of Public Health and Population to scale up care for infected people and increase supplies of protective equipment for health workers, increase testing, and through the COVAX facility, deliver the first doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to Haiti, particularly to all frontline health workers over 18 years of age according to Dr Etienne.
The increase in transmission is likely fueled by two variants of concern, (B 1.1.7 and P1) and ignorance of public health measures. And as in Haiti, so in the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America, she added: “Wishful thinking will not resolve this crisis. We need action.”
Regional leadership, she said, must be united around stopping the virus, ending misinformation, increasing access to vaccines and reiterating public health measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands.
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