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Pan American Health Organization warns against “complacency” as “mixed picture” emerges

Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2021. 8:36 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: With nearly 74 million COVID-19 cases and 1.9 million deaths – more than a third of COVID cases and more than 40 percent of deaths reported globally, the Americas has yet to reach its pandemic peak.

But spikes in reported cases in Central America, the Caribbean and some South American countries last week, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne reported.

“Cases rise when complacency sets in,” she warned during a press briefing. “We are all tired, but after experiencing successive peaks of infections in the same locations, we must break this cycle by embracing public health measures early and consistently.”

Infections have actually declined by nearly 20 percent in the Americas due to reductions in South America, where COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths are dropping across most of the continent, including in Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, and Chile.

Conversely, increases in cases have been reported in El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba (its highest number since the start of the pandemic), British Virgin Islands (tripling after reopening to cruise ships), Mexico, the United States, Argentina and Colombia (raising concerns there about the health system’s ability to cope as 98 percent of ICU beds are already in use).

“When variants of concern circulate,” Dr Etienne continued, “it’s even more important that countries step up surveillance, especially while vaccine coverage remains low.”

Dr Etienne also warned that the pandemic is creating serious social and economic impacts.

“COVID-19 has not just ravaged our health systems, it has fractured social protection programs and destabilized our economies,” she said, drawing attention to a new study from the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The study reported that more than 7 million companies have closed amid the pandemic.

“We urge countries to continue prioritizing health and social safety nets as part of their COVID response and as they turn their sights to COVID recovery,” she added.


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