COVID-19 still in 1st wave globally – PAHO advisor

While it has been almost one year since the COVID-19 pandemic was discovered in Wuhan, China, and has devastated health and economic systems across the world, the virus is still in the first wave globally.
This was according to Advisor at the Disease Surveillance and Epidemiology Department of the Pan American Health Organisation, Eldonna Boisson during a webinar for communication authorities and media personnel on Friday.
The coronavirus, which started as an epidemic, has now grown into a pandemic with new cases being detected every day. In March, it was declared a Public Health Emergency International Concern (PHEIC), meaning that it carried implications for public health beyond national borders and may require immediate international action.
The data showed Europe as a key hotspot in March, after which it moved to South America for a few months. Now, Europe is witnessing a rise again while South America’s weekly cases are declining.
As of now, there is no cure for the disease but one vaccine has proven 95 per cent effectiveness. Just two days ago, PAHO said delivering vaccines for COVID-19 would be challenging and expensive, adding that it is vital that countries start preparing now. Projections for Latin America and the Caribbean show that vaccinating 20 per cent of the population will cost more than $2 billion dollars.
PAHO is already working with countries in the Americas to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX Mechanism and will offer them the option to purchase the vaccines as a block through PAHO’s Revolving Fund.
PAHO has also partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Union and other financial institutions and donors to secure the funding needed for lower-income countries in the region to join.
A COVID-19 vaccine is still some months away but measures to reduce the spread of the virus and control transmission must continue by wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding unnecessary gatherings and following the recommendations of local and national health authorities.
Over the last week, the Region of the Americas reported almost 1.5 million cases and 19,000 deaths due to COVID-19. North America remains a driver for the infection while in Central America, the response is being affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota.
In most Andean countries, cases have decreased, although Brazil is seeing increases in cases and deaths in some states and Uruguay, the only country with cluster transmission, has seen spikes in some areas of its border with Brazil.
Assistant Director of the Organisation, Jarbas Barbosa said, “We must make the most of the life-saving vaccines that are already available, to prevent other outbreaks of severe diseases such as polio, measles and others.”
He noted that PAHO is working closely with Governments to review their immunisation programmes, share regulatory information and strengthen their cold chain capacity to ensure a smooth and quick rollout of new COVID-19 vaccines when they are approved.