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Monday, May 16, 2022

End of pandemic a ‘distant future’ for Latin America: WHO

The end of the Covid-19 pandemic remains “a distant future” for Latin America and the Caribbean, the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.

Latin America and the Caribbean represents only 8% of the world’s population, but accounts for almost a third of deaths from Covid-19 since the WHO office in China reported the onset of the disease in December 2019. It also comprises more than one-fifth of global infections.

“This virus has touched every corner of the world and has changed the course of history,” Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said at a press conference.

“While we are seeing some reprieve from the virus in countries in the Northern Hemisphere, for most countries in our region, the end remains a distant future,” she added.

PAHO said that infections are declining in the United States and Canada, although it reported increases in Mexico, particularly in the states of Quintana Roo and Baja California and in Mexico City.

The organization also noted an increase in new coronavirus infections in Belize, Panama and Guatemala, as well as in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Saint Kitts and Nevis. And it said that the situation in Haiti is getting worse.

In South America, which has been hit hard in recent months by the virus, cases continue to increase in Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay. In Argentina, although there has been a modest reduction, cases remain high.

Etienne described the outlook as “worrying” and emphasized that only one in 10 people in Latin America and the Caribbean has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

“Currently, very few places are benefiting from the full protection potential of vaccines, as there is a huge access gap in our region,” she denounced.

“This is an unacceptable situation, and the emergence of variants makes it even more urgent to accelerate the supply to the places with the highest transmission.”

Etienne also warned about the risk of an increase in Covid-19 infections in the Americas due to the summer holidays in the north, the hurricane season and the impact of the flu in the southern winter.

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