PAHO urges greater collaboration in finding balance between ‘lives and livelihoods’

Director of the Pan American Health Organisation Dr Carissa Etienne. (Photo courtesy PAHO)
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By Orville Williams

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As the leaders of many countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, insist that the time has come to ‘live with Covid-19’, the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) says the relevant authorities must collaborate to achieve this delicate balance.

“We have been mentioning several times that each country must consider a proper balance between population health and wellbeing, and progressively re-establishing activity in all [business] sectors to recover their economies.

“In that regard, close coordination between corresponding authorities is needed to make the best decisions in the context of the pandemic, where we see a sharp increase in cases when we relax the public health and social measures,” PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies, Dr Ciro Ugarte, told a media briefing yesterday.

Though economic activity in Antigua and Barbuda has scaled up significantly since the start of the pandemic, sectors like entertainment and sports continue to struggle due to continued restrictions on events and activities.

Players in both sectors have been very vocal about what they perceive to be unfair treatment – in comparison to the tourism sector, for example – but the government maintains that it will take its time before granting approval for movement in these sectors, as that could potentially result in super-spreader events.

Dr Ugarte advised that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the issue, and told countries that they must take their individual circumstances into account, to determine the most appropriate time to relax certain public health measures.

“It is important to consider the current epidemiological situation, the current capacity of the health services – particularly ICU and [general] hospital beds – and the vaccination rate, to decide which restrictions may be relaxed and at what level,” he said.

“A good, operational monitoring system is a must when we adopt any relaxation of measures, in order to identify a localised surge in cases early, and prevent community transmission. And accordingly, all the measures must be adjusted with that monitoring information.”

This advice will, no doubt, be echoed by sporting bodies and event promoters alike, as they constantly urge the government to allow some activity when the infection rate slows.

It remains to be seen, however, when the government will take its own advice and finally submit to living with Covid-19.

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