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PAHO: Region-wide COVID-19 surge demands stepped-up fight

(Barbados Today) – The Pan American Health Organisation’s point man in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr Yitades Gebre, has urged the region to ramp up public health measures to contain the viral illness “at a dangerous time” amid a surge in infections across the region.

Over the last three weeks, PAHO noted that  Barbados has recorded an 1138 per cent increase  in COVID cases – topping regional neighbours St Vincent and the Grenadines (573  per cent), Antigua and Barbuda (325 per cent) and St Lucia (77 per cent).

Dr Gebre said: “The current intensity of transmission and response capacity of the health system in these countries require for adjustment of the public health and social measures tailored to the local context and stepping up contact tracing of cases for targeted control.”

He blamed the current outbreaks in the countries on “people attending crowded settings, engaging in confined space with limited physical distancing and not wearing masks in public spaces”.

The PAHO expert also raised concern that in some cases clusters of cases have occurred in institutional settings and warned that “not complying with recommended public health and social measures gives the virus opportunities to spread, and for more people to develop severe disease, and stretching the health systems.

“If we don’t act now, the number of hospitalizations will increase and result in deaths,” Dr Gebre cautioned.

He underscored that now was not the time for complacency with the rollout of vaccines coming.

The PAHO representative said: “Since the start of the New Year, PAHO has shipped additional SARS-CoV-2 testing kits, personal protective equipment to Grenada, Barbados, Saint Vincent and Grenadines and Saint Lucia and provided technical guidance to all countries to prepare for COVID-19 vaccines when it becomes available.

“We reiterate that local communities, and visitors in Barbados and Eastern Caribbean countries  exercise safe COVID-19 personal protective measures (such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, mask wearing); environmental measures (such as cleaning, disinfection, ventilation).” 

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