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Covid-19: Countries in the Americas are warned not to lower their guard

Covid-19 is on the retreat across the American continents but it is too early for the region to let its guard down, warned the Pan American Health Organisation, the World Health Organization’s regional office for the Americas, on 9 March.

Reported cases of Covid-19 fell by 26% in the past week and deaths by nearly 19%, as the omicron wave of infections tailed off. But ongoing transmission and future variants could expose the region’s public health priorities once more, said PAHO’s director, Carissa Etienne.

A total of 2.6 million people have died from Covid-19 in the Americas, the highest number of any region of the world and almost half of the global total, despite being home to only 13% of its population. “This is a tragedy of enormous proportions, and its effects will be felt for years to come,” said Etienne on the second anniversary of the pandemic.

Patchy vaccination coverage has left countries vulnerable to current and future variants of SARS-CoV-2. Around 248 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are yet to receive a single dose of a covid vaccine, with vaccination rates particularly low in hard-to-reach rural areas.

In the first two months of 2022 the Americas accounted for 63% of the world’s new cases. Despite a general fall in incidence across the region, new cases rose by 2.2% in the Caribbean, while Bolivia and Puerto Rico reported an increase in deaths in the past week.

Michael Touchton, head of the University of Miami’s Covid-19 policy observatory for Latin America, said, “Latin America is perhaps the most vulnerable region in the world to the emergence of a new variant. Vaccine delays have a greater impact in Latin America due to concentrated urban populations, chronic disease burden, and low capacity health systems. Taken together, Latin America is likelier to fare worse than other similarly low and middle income regions.”

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Source: BMJ, 14 March 2022


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