COVID-19 is on the decline in Latin America and the Caribbean, but remains a threat | International

While COVID-19 deaths and infections in the Americas region over the past week are at the lowest levels since the pandemic began two years ago, the regional branch of the World Health Organization Health warned on Wednesday that countries should not think the pandemic is over.

COVID-19 remains a threat in Latin America and the Caribbean, where some countries are still battling vaccine hesitancy, lies and other misinformation to boost vaccination rates, Pan American Health Organization officials said. health.

“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” said Dr. Ciro Ugarte, director of health emergencies for PAHO. “There are still millions of cases and dozens of deaths per week.”

The PAHO warning comes as Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay join some European countries in dropping the mandatory use of face masks and a federal judge in Florida overturned the federal mask mandate on Monday. for airplanes and other modes of public transport.

In the Caribbean, countries like Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba have also relaxed COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers.

Last week, the Americas region, which also includes the United States, Mexico and Canada, reported more than 490,527 COVID cases – a decrease of nearly 2.3% from the previous week, a said Wednesday Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO, during her regular press briefing. with regional journalists on the state of the pandemic. A total of 4,797 deaths were also recorded, down 15.2% from the previous week.

Proof that the virus remains present and poses a threat to public health, Etienne noted that in North America, COVID-19 infections have increased by 11.2%. In Canada, hospitalizations have increased by more than 20% as the proportion of cases of omicron BA.2 variants has increased in the country.

“As borders have reopened and tourism has intensified, cases have also increased in some Caribbean countries and territories, with St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Maarten recording the most large relative increases,” said Etienne. “We are still in a public health emergency of international concern and experts are advising countries to prepare to rapidly scale up public health and social measures if hospitalization and death rates start to rise again.”

Acknowledging that public health decisions related to the pandemic are the responsibility of each country, Etienne urged governments in the region to increase vaccination rates and utilize the upcoming Vaccination Week in the Americas, which will run from April 23 to 30, to try to achieve 70% vaccination of their population.

The June 30 target, set by the World Health Organization, has so far only been met by 14 countries in the region, while eight countries and territories have already vaccinated more than 60% of their population. .

“In some areas, vaccination has slowed down or plateaued,” Etienne said. “In the Caribbean, less than 30% of the population has completed their primary series in Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia. And in all of Latin America, Guatemala, Guyana and Paraguay have yet to reach half their population.

She also added another warning: in some countries, COVID has become the number one cause of death among pregnant women.

“These deaths are preventable. And the best way to do that is to expand vaccination coverage for pregnant women at any stage of their pregnancy,” she said.

PAHO helped get 1.77 billion vaccines injected into the region in just 16 months, Etienne said, so a vaccine shortage is not the issue today. The challenge, she said, is to expand coverage and get more people vaccinated.

———

© 2022 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.