The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) expects a “tsunami” of COVID-19 cases in Latin America and the Caribbean, said the agency’s director, Carissa Etienne, urging the private sector to collaborate with governments to deal with it.
Speaking at a forum of ministers and senior executives in the region who are leading the actions for the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Etienne asked for help from the private sector “in response to the tsunami of COVID-19 cases that we will face.”
In the Americas region, “millions of lives will be directly and indirectly affected by COVID-19,” Etienne said, according to a statement released after the videoconference meeting of the COVID Action Platform of the World Economic Forum for Latin America.
“Lives are already being lost, our health and well-being are directly threatened, our health systems will be overwhelmed and our health workers will be on the edge,” said the director of PAHO, the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO ).
The outbreak of the new coronavirus, first reported in China last December and declared a global pandemic by the WHO on March 11, already leaves almost 1,094,000 infected worldwide, a quarter of them in the United States, and some 59,000 dead.
According to PAHO figures, as of April 2, 51 countries and territories in the Americas had reported 247,473 confirmed cases and 5,600 deaths from COVID-19.
In preparation for the expected increase in cases in the region, Etienne asked business leaders for support in solving what he considered to be the greatest challenge today: “access to quality and affordable COVID-19 evidence, since personal protection equipment “for health workers, at the forefront of the battle against the virus.
“The private sector has an important role to play in ensuring the resilience of health systems,” he said.
– Help for health systems –
The PAHO director said that resources from the private sector “can be made available quickly to increase the capacity of the health system.”
Among them, he mentioned healthcare services, facilities, laboratories, transportation logistics capacity, staffing, information systems, technology, and devices, including key equipment such as respirators.
Etienne further urged entrepreneurs to “innovate” in science and technology and called for support for the development and commercialization of a new vaccine against COVID-19.
“Please ensure mechanisms are in place to guarantee universal access to the vaccine,” he said.
Currently there is no vaccine against COVID-19, although there are laboratories that have announced that they are looking to develop it, among them the Americans Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, and the Chinese CanSinoBIO.
Etienne also urged the private sector to work with governments to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic in the region, “particularly for the most vulnerable.”
This week, Etienne defended social distancing measures – which have costs for fragile economies such as Latin America – given that they contain the spread of the virus and prevent a collapse of health systems.
The forum was attended by, among others, the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, and the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Barcena.
ECLAC predicted on Friday a “deep recession” in Latin America due to the coronavirus, which will lead to a fall in the regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 1.8 to 4% in 2020, with a projection of a strong increase in poverty.
If the effects of COVID-19 lead to the loss of income of 5% of the economically active population in Latin America, poverty could increase 3.5 percentage points, from 185.9 million people to 209.4 million people he indicated.
Last week, the IDB raised loans to cover the crisis by COVID-19 to $ 12 billion, pledging to finance an “immediate” response to the emergency.
On Thursday, PAHO called on international donors – philanthropic foundations and companies – to raise some $ 95 million to help countries in the region respond to the health crisis.