PAHO: COVID deaths doubling in T&T

Exactly three months after Trinidad and Tobago was commended by the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic—this country is now one of five in the world with the highest numbers of new COVID-19 infections.

T&T, Haiti and the Bahamas are now the three countries in the Caribbean with the highest numbers of new infections.

Reporting this during yesterday’s weekly briefing, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa Etienne said these three nations had seen COVID deaths double.

“Last week, there were over 1.2 million new COVID cases and 31,000 deaths reported in the Americas…and many Caribbean islands— like the Bahamas, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago—are seeing COVID deaths doubled in the last week,” Etienne said.

May has been the deadliest month for T&T since the pandemic began in March 2020.

For the first 19 days of May, a total of 162 people died from the virus. Yesterday, 14 more people died. This took the overall death toll to 331.

The deaths for the month of May have already surpassed the number of COVID deaths recorded in all of 2020 – 127.

Up to 4 pm yesterday, a total of 519 new COVID-19 positive cases were recorded; bringing the total number of active cases to 6,649.

The total number of positive cases yesterday stood at 17,669; with 409 people said to be hospitalised.

A total of 5,587 people are in-home self-isolation; with another 297 in state quarantine facilities and 134 at step-down facilities.

It was only at the May 12 PAHO briefing that Etienne said the organisation was worried, as the infections and deaths had soared in the Americas and Caribbean. She had also singled out Trinidad and Tobago, saying, “Cuba continues to drive most of the infections in the Caribbean, although smaller countries like T&T are experiencing significant jumps.”

Yesterday, Etienne said Costa Rica and parts of Honduras had also reported sharp increases in new infections, as were Bolivia and French Guinea; while a decline has been recorded in Brazil over the previous weeks.

She said Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy rates remained at 90 per cent in many areas of Brazil and Colombia, which was, “A sign that these communities are still at a high risk of not getting the care that they need.”

She noted that the most dramatic change had been in the US – where almost half of the population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Etienne reported that 85 per cent of people over the age of 85 are now fully protected in the US.

She said via the COVAX facility, PAHO has so far delivered more than 12 million COVID-19 vaccines across the Americas, with another 770,000 doses en route to countries in the Caribbean and Central America.

With only three per cent of Latin Americans being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 thus far, Etienne said, “We urgently need more vaccines for Latin America and the Caribbean…a region that has been put to the test severely by this pandemic.”

Admitting there were glaring gaps in the access to COVID vaccines throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, she said this was evidence of the over-dependence on imports from essential medical suppliers.

“Less than four per cent of medical products in use during the COVID response have come from the region,” Etienne revealed.

She said the region has struggled for access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), oxygen supplies, medicines and vaccines which are all vital in the pandemic fight.

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