PAHO: Covid19 still rising in Americas

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne –

In the past week, the Americas reported 616,000 new cases of covid19, an increase of 12.7 per cent compared to the previous week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has said.

Deaths in the region totalled 4,200, a drop of less than one per cent.

The Caribbean reported a 15.4 per cent increase in new infections, with increases in 24 of 34 countries and a 39.6 per cent increase in deaths. It is the third consecutive week on the rise.

That hospitalisations and cases are rising in many countries should serve to drive countries to continue working and not lose sight of the virus, said Dr Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO, during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

She said the data can help to better plan prevention measures and increase hospital capacity.

“Vaccines are essential when the data increases. In Canada, unvaccinated young people were more likely to contract the virus, so we must reach those who have not yet been vaccinated, especially the most vulnerable.”

PAHO reported more than 1.8 billion doses of covid19 vaccines have been distributed in the Americas. Last week PAHO delivered more than 12 million doses.

“We must keep up this momentum to reach the more than 230 million people who have not yet been vaccinated,” said Etienne.

Dr Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of PAHO, confirmed covid19 has been the main cause of death of pregnant women in the region.

“For this reason, it is very important that pregnant women get vaccinated and that health professionals guide them about this and the confidence to get vaccinated,” he said.

Barbosa said studies show many pregnant women do not receive the health care they need.

Dr Enrique Pérez, PAHO’s director of incidents, said PAHO is investigating patients infected by adenoviruses (which can cause illnesses such as respiratory tract infections, conjunctivitis, haemorrhagic cystitis and gastroenteritis) and their relationship with covid19.

Etienne urged the governments of the Americas to improve their policies to help nurses to guarantee their permanence in the health system, especially in these times of pandemic.

International Nursing Day is celebrated on May 6.

“Today nurses face the double burden of caring for covid19 patients and also trying to catch up with those who did not attend follow-up appointments in the last two years. This leads many to walk away from their jobs, and the hospitals have a drastic drop in staff numbers,” said Etienne.

PAHO reported studies indicated four per cent of nurses said they intended to leave the profession.

“Nurses are the cornerstone of healthcare professionals and comprise 56 per cent of the workforce. We depend on them and when they face difficulties the health system suffers,” she said.

PAHO estimates the region will need an additional 1.8 million nurses by 2030. Etienne said countries must evaluate how to improve their strategies to better manage the nursing workforce.

She said in the Caribbean thousands of nurses left their jobs to go to other areas with better benefits and that is detrimental.

Jamaica and Brazil, she said, are already working to improve the conditions of nurses, who are key in the fight against covid19.