Sat | Sep 19, 2020

Opening up economies too fast in pandemic dangerous, says PAHO director

Published:Wednesday | September 16, 2020 | 4:41 PM
Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne - Contributed photo

Jason Cross, Gleaner Writer

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) chief, Dr Carissa Etienne, has warned countries in the Americas that the consequences could be untold if they open up their economies too fast without providing adequate health facilities.

The director raised concern about rising coronavirus cases in countries that reopened their borders to travellers after the first wave of the pandemic.

Etienne's alarm may rest on the minds of health officials in Jamaica as the country, earlier today, recorded 122 new cases of COVID-19, pushing the overall number of infections in the island to 4,164. Forty-six people have died.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, the PAHO director urged health authorities to have the staff, tools and resources in place to monitor and contain the virus.

"They must be prepared to carry out tests, isolate, and quarantine, and ensure there are enough hospital beds to care for patients who develop severe symptoms. Let us not fool ourselves. If our health systems are not prepared, it is not the time to reopen," Etienne said.

Failure to implement best practices, she said, would risk a handful of cases in one area becoming a full-blown outbreak, and encouraged countries to take heed.

"This is a truth that I urge countries to embrace as they make the decision to resume public life," she said.

Etienne implored governments to roll out public-awareness campaigns on the same scale and intensity as when the pandemic started gaining momentum earlier this year.

"I dare say that we need the same level of commitment as these measures are lifted, so everyone has the tools and information they need to protect themselves and others," Etienne said.

"Although the entire world is racing to create new tools to prevent and cure COVID-19, a safe and effective vaccine that can be manufactured and delivered at scale is not around the corner."

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