PAHO assures that the pandemic was “undoubtedly worse” in 2021 for the Americas compared to 2020

The Covid pandemic in the Americas It was “undoubtedly worse” in 2021, when the region saw three times as many infections and deaths as the previous year, the Pan American Health Organization (OPS).

The Director of PAHO, Carissa Etienne, noted that the second year of the pandemic marked and challenged the American continent.

“When we compare 2020 with 2021, this year was undoubtedly worse,” he said at a press conference. “We saw triple the number of Covid infections and deaths in this second year of the pandemic than in 2020.”

“Hospitals were operating on the brink, vital medicines and supplies were in short supply, and our healthcare systems were put to the test like never before,” he added.

The first imported case of covid in the Americas was identified on January 21, 2020 in the United States. Since then, more than 98 million people in the region have suffered from the disease and more than 2.3 million have died, according to official figures compiled by the OPS.

The American continent has been especially hit by the new coronavirus, concentrating more than a third of all infections and one in four deaths from Covid-19 reported worldwide.

Etienne pointed out that in the last week, the Americas reported more than 926,000 new covid infections, an 18.4% increase in cases over the previous weeks.

The resurgence of cases was registered in particular in the United States and Canada, as well as in Panama, where there has been a “constant” increase in infections in the last month, and also in Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago.

Ómicron in eight countries

The delta variant continues to predominate in all subregions of the Americas.

But the new Omicron strain, first reported by South Africa on November 24 and suspected of having a transmission rate up to two and three times higher than delta, has already been identified in eight countries and one territory: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and Bermuda.

“Until now, the Ómicron cases have been mostly associated with travelers,” he explained. Sylvain Aldighieri, PAHO Incident Manager. “The data on sustained community transmission is still very limited.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that Omicron was spreading at an unprecedented rate and was probably already present in most countries.

Aldighieri called for caution regarding Ómicron’s report of mild cases, urging health services to prepare for an eventual increase in COVID infections in the coming weeks.

“The best way to combat all variants is for countries to continue working to vaccinate all eligible populations and to continue promoting public health measures that can limit transmission,” Etienne declared, asking not to lower their guard during the weekend holidays. of year.

Advances in Nicaragua

Anticovid vaccination is advancing in the Americas: of the 51 countries and territories in the region, 32 have already reached the goal set by the WHO of having 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021.

However, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guatemala, French Guiana, Saint Lucia, and Montserrat report rates below 30 percent.

“Some countries in our region such as Chile, Cuba, Uruguay and Canada have one of the highest vaccination coverage in the world. And yet millions of people in our region have not yet received a single dose,” said Etienne.

“The inequity in access to vaccines continues to divide our region and if we do not address the obvious gaps, we will not be able to control this virus,” he warned.

The deputy director of PAHO, Jarbas Barbosa, highlighted the progress of immunization in Nicaragua, which a month ago had a coverage rate of less than 10% and today it reaches 37.9 percent.

“The situation in Nicaragua has changed a lot, in a positive way. It is very important to recognize that effort,” he said, highlighting the work of PAHO with the Nicaraguan government for the deployment of donations of doses from the United States, Spain, Japan and others. countries through the global mechanism Covax.

Barbosa noted, however, the “very critical” situation in Haiti, where according to data published by PAHO the vaccination rate is only 0.6 percent.

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