Latin America, Caribbean risk losing COVID gains - PAHO rep

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Latin America, Caribbean risk losing COVID gains - PAHO rep

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Head of the Pan American Health Organisation's (PAHO's) health emergencies programme Dr Ciro Ugarte has warned that while measures like lockdowns and movement restrictions across Latin America and the Caribbean have so far generally been effective in flattening the COVID epidemic curve and delaying its peak, the region risks losing the gains.

He argued that while restrictive measures are difficult, they require leadership and collaboration along with good epidemic intelligence. As such, he called for governments to seek input from the health sector when considering reopening ports to tourism and commerce as the actions can influence the course of the pandemic.

“People are getting a false sense of security and we are in danger of losing the advantages we have gained,” Ugarte warned.

He was speaking yesterday at PAHO's 58th Directing Council.

PAHO data shows that there are now more than 16.4 million cases reported in the Americas, with more than 550,000 deaths.

Ugarte said transmission of COVID-19 in the region of the Americas continues to be very active but there have been improvements in response, including a 99 per cent increase in intensive care beds in eight key countries, the deployment of 15 Emergency Medical Teams and the creation of 184 alternative medical sites in recent weeks.

Key challenges he said, include improving surveillance, rapid response, and expanding capacity for case investigations, along with limited numbers of tests available for national laboratories and limited supplies of personal protective equipment. Dr Ugarte also underscored the need to have enough staff to maintain essential health services while ensuring safe and decent working conditions, with good infection prevention and control.

The Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) brings together ministers of health and high-level delegates from PAHO/WHO member countries to discuss and analyze regional health policies, and to set priorities for technical cooperation and cross-country collaboration.


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