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As COVID-19 deaths exceed 2.6 million in the Americas and restrictions are lifted, countries must prepare to respond quickly to new variants or outbreaks
Two years after COVID-19 was characterized as a pandemic, and at a time when public health measures are being lifted in many parts of the Americas, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F Etienne, warned the countries that it is too early to lower their guard.
“When places relax measures at the wrong time, transmission skyrockets dangerously and we lose more lives,” Dr. Etienne said today at a press conference, urging countries to base their decisions on risk assessments and data. as well as to reinforce the measures if the cases increase.
“COVID-19 is likely here to stay. We must learn to live with this virus and quickly adapt to new changes,” added the PAHO Director.
Reflecting on the past two years of the pandemic, he said the Americas have been hit harder than any other region in the world, with more than 2.6 million lives lost, half of all global deaths. “This is a tragedy of enormous proportions, and its effects will be felt for years to come,” he added.
He also warned that “the pandemic remains a threat today” as countries experienced record numbers of new infections during the wave of the omicron variant, with the Americas accounting for 63% of new global cases in the first two months of the pandemic alone. 2022.
“We all want the pandemic to end, but optimism alone cannot control the virus,” Etienne said, calling on countries to “remain vigilant.”
Countries should draw on the lessons of the past two years to prepare for rapid action and adjust public health guidance if a new variant emerges or outbreaks occur, ensuring ongoing surveillance and facilitating testing even when transmission is low, he said. .
The PAHO Director also called for addressing the inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, highlighting that in Latin America and the Caribbean, 248 million people have not yet received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, in particular those in hard-to-reach rural areas and in underserved communities.
“Our victories against COVID-19 show us what is possible when we work together and use the tools we know are effective,” said Dr. Etienne, referring to the progress made in the fight against the virus in the past year, such as public health measures to slow the spread, safe vaccines and better treatment options.
Regarding the situation of COVID-19 in the region, the PAHO Director reported that cases decreased by 26% in the Americas in the last week and deaths also decreased by almost 19%.
However, the number of reported cases may not accurately reflect the situation in some countries given the possible reduction in testing, he noted.
Despite the overall decline in cases and deaths in the region, new cases increased by 2.2% in the Caribbean. Bolivia and Puerto Rico also reported an increase in deaths in the last week.