World Health Organization officials warned on Wednesday that despite the trend across much of America, several Caribbean countries are reporting significant spikes in known coronavirus infections.
New cases have increased by 40 percent in the Dominican Republic and Barbados since last week, according to Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, a division of WHO.
“In fact,” Dr. Etienne said at a press conference, “half of the cumulative Covid infections in Barbados since the start of the pandemic have been reported last month.”
New cases are also on the rise in Trinidad and Tobago and some small island states and territories in the region, including Saint Martin, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and the Cayman Islands.
Many countries in the Caribbean have found it difficult to rapidly advance vaccination, both due to difficulties in obtaining doses and widespread hesitation in the population.
“It really worries me that some of my Caribbean brothers and sisters are in no rush to take the Covid-19 vaccines that have been given to them,” said Dr. Etienne from Dominica.
According to PAHO, 41 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
New case reports are declining across North America, while infections and deaths are declining in much of Central America. The picture is also improving in South America, with the exception of Bolivia and Venezuela, according to the organization.
Dr Etienne said it was important for countries in the region to scale up testing even as new cases declined, so that any new outbreaks could be detected before they escalate into massive outbreaks. “We are seeing more and more how local hot spots are influencing national trends,” she said.
A good approach would be to combine Covid-19 surveillance with monitoring of other respiratory viruses, she said. She said her organization is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States to develop a new PCR testing protocol that will test the same samples for both Covid-19 and influenza.
Strong surveillance networks can also help detect emerging pathogens before they spread, she said, and serve as “the foundation for a region’s pandemic preparedness.”