- BBC World News
March 25, 2021
“It is an active public health emergency,” was how the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, described the current situation of the pandemic in the continent.
During a press conference to report on the arrival in the region of 2.2 million vaccines acquired through the Covax initiative, Dr. Etienne warned that the virus is on the dangerous rise in many countries.
Although the vaccines are arriving, “it will still be several months for most of the people in our region to be able to access them,” Etienne said. Meanwhile, “the covid-19 virus is not receding, nor is the pandemic beginning to go away.”
The PAHO director reported that last week in the region there was an increase of 1.2 million people infected with covid with 31.272 deaths new registered by the disease.
He stressed that “the pandemic is particularly serious in South America” and pointed out some of the countries that face the greatest challenges.
In Brazil, for example, where more than a million doses of the vaccine arrived last Sunday as part of the recent distribution by Covax, the virus continues to spread dangerously across the country.
“Cases and deaths are growing, and bed occupancy in intensive care units is high in several states,” said the PAHO director.
Brazil is the country with the most borders in South America and their rate of infection endangers their neighboring countries, PAHO indicated.
In the case of Venezuela, the increase in patients is taking place in the states of Bolívar and Amazonas, bordering Brazil.
The problem of overloading the health system and the high occupancy of beds in intensive care units also occurs in Paraguay and Peru. In the latter country, the occupation continues to be “very high in Loreto,” according to Ettiene.
In Chile, one of the countries with one of the most efficient inoculation campaigns, there is a sharp increase in infections and deaths.
And Uruguay, which until recently was in a privileged situation with respect to contagion, now reports one of the greater new case rates in Latin America.
In addition, the pandemic is accelerating in other areas of the continent, including Guatemala, where the number of cases and hospitalizations is “depleting the capacity of beds in hospitals due to the influx of patients,” reported the director of PAHO.
The Caribbean area, several islands including Cuba, have seen a steady increase for weeks. Neither Haiti nor Cuba have started their immunization campaign and the government of Havana has chosen to develop its own vaccines.
Third wave in North America
North America is not far behind. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, which borders the United States, an increase in cases was reported in the past two weeks.
The province’s chief medical officer, David Williams, said Monday that “we are in the third wave” and expressed concern that the vaccination program no isá implementing fast enough.
Across the border, in the US states of Minnesota and West Virginia, more deaths are reported, according to PAHO, and an infection curve that is rising.
Waiting for more vaccines
“The covid-19 virus is not receding, nor is the pandemic beginning to disappear,” Carissa Etienne stated bluntly.
However, he stressed that the number of vaccines in the region has increased, although is not sufficient. “The doses that have been delivered have helped us begin to protect health workers and other vulnerable groups, and we expect more doses to arrive each week.”
But he acknowledged that the necessary vaccines are not available to protect everyone, so efforts must be made to “find ways to share vaccines more equitably between countries.”
He assured that the vaccines approved by the WHO “are safe and work” and urged the public to “when your turn comes, do not hesitate and get vaccinated.”
Remembered that there is no other region in the world better prepared to administer vaccines quickly and safely, which will be critical “as new vaccines are deployed and introduced to the region.”
Finally, he called on the public to continue to abide by public health measures, including the use of masks, frequent hand washing and social distancing, especially during the Easter season.
“People cannot lower their guard by being in close contact with others,” he insisted.
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