The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on Wednesday warned that if coronavirus disease (Covid-19) continues to spread at the current rate, it will be years before the virus is controlled in the Americas. During a weekly press briefing, PAHO director Carissa Etienne said that almost 1.2 million new Covid-19 cases and about 34,000 related deaths were reported in the region last week, highlighting that four of the five countries with the highest death counts – The United States, Brazil, Mexico and Peru – are in the Americas.

“If current trends continue, the health, social and economic disparities in our region will grow even larger, and it will be years before we control this virus in the Americas,” Etienne said.

PAHO serves as a regional office for the World Health Organization (WHO) and its member states include all 35 countries in the Americas. The US has been the worst-hit nation in terms of coronavirus-related deaths, followed by Brazil and India, as per the official figures. While the US has taken control with an aggressive vaccination drive, Brazil continues to report hundreds of deaths due to the infection every day.

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Etienne thanked the US, Canada, and Spain for promising to donate millions of vaccine doses or funding for the fight against Covid-19, but stressed that more needs to be done. “We hope other countries – particularly those with excess doses – and global financial institutions will follow in their footsteps to provide the support we need,” Etienne said. “Vaccine donations are essential in the short-term,” she added.

Just around 10 per cent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated, making it vulnerable to fresh Covid waves. The rapid spread of new variants could make the situation even worse in lower- and lower-middle-income countries of the Americas.

Ahead of the kick-off of the Copa America soccer tournament in Brazil, PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies, Ciro Ugarte, warned that countries hosting mass events should consider postponing if the risk of Covid-19 cannot be controlled. He said that Venezuela still owes $10 million in funding for vaccines via the COVAX vaccine sharing program.

(With agency inputs)

World News


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