Mon | Nov 29, 2021

Caribbean warned to expect more new COVID-19 infections

Published:Thursday | October 21, 2021 | 12:08 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

COVID-19 infections and deaths have declined in most countries in North America although more hospitalisations are being seen in Canada’s distant provinces.

The rate of COVID-19 infections is also on the decline in Central and South America with the exception of Bolivia and Venezuela, which have seen a spike in the number of people contracting the virus. Mexico, however, has recorded an increase in deaths from the highly contagious disease.

At the same time, Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, has described the situation in the Caribbean as “more severe”.

In its weekly press briefing on Wednesday, Etienne reported that there were about 817,000 new COVID infections and more than 18,000 COVID-related deaths in the region.

“The situation is more severe in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic and Barbados are reporting over 40 per cent just in new cases over the last week. In fact, half of Barbados’ cumulative COVID infections, since the pandemic began, have been reported in the last month. Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago and Martinique are also seeing a jump in new infections,” she said.

“Cases remain high in St Maarten, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, and The Cayman Islands. So we continue to urge countries, especially those in the Caribbean, to maintain and prioritise public-health measures to control the spread of COVID. These measures, along with widespread vaccinations, are the best options to control our increase,” the PAHO executive emphasised.

The good news for the region is that 41 per cent of the populations across Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated, but this does not reflect an even coverage as some countries have lower vaccination rates.

Also, another 4.6 million COVAX vaccine doses are projected to reach the region by the end of this week, Dr Etienne disclosed. She warned that while this will mean more protection as vaccine coverage increases, the region would continue to see new infections.

In an appeal to those who are still hesitant to take the COVID-19 jab, the public-health specialist declared that like other vaccines, they were designed to prevent severe disease and death.