Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa Etienne, has lamented that COVID-19 public health measures within the region are being undermined by political disputes, which are leading to misinformation.
Etienne said leaders must put forward a united front to stop this outbreak, especially as deaths and infections have doubled within the first five months of this year.
Speaking at PAHO’s weekly press briefing on COVID-19 on Wednesday, Etienne said 1.1 million new cases and over 25,000 COVID-19 related deaths were reported in the region over the last week.
“After weeks of plateauing and even decreasing figures, COVID-19 infections are back on the rise in all sub-regions, except in North America.”
Meanwhile, she said within the Caribbean islands, Saint Martin, Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic are also reporting a surge in infections. However, she was particularly concerned about the situation in Haiti, where sources have reported sharp increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in recent weeks.
Asserting the crisis can be resolved through action and not wishful thinking, she said, “So, please let me remind you of what needs to be done to stop this outbreak. The first thing is effective leadership. This pandemic has taught us time and again that leadership determines the effectiveness of a country’s response. Sadly, across our region, we’ve seen misinformation about COVID-19 and this has sown doubt on proven health measures, often in the context of political disputes. By stoking controversy where there is none, our leaders are sending mixed messages to the public and standing in a way of effective measures to control the virus. We must unite around stopping this virus – and this should be the priority.”
Also, she said boosting access to vaccines is also urgently required.
While COVAX has already delivered some 17.6 million doses to the region, she said progress is not keeping up with the pandemic.