Last week, new cases fell 26% and deaths nearly 19% across the continental United States. Yet two years after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic due to the new coronavirus, the danger persists.
“The pandemic remains a threat today. In the first two months of 2022 alone, 63% of new global cases were reported in the Americas,” said Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO’s regional office. WHO in the Americas, during a virtual conference. press conference.
Etienne recalled that the recent wave of cases caused by the omicron variant has claimed more than 220,000 lives across the continent, with a record number of new infections in Brazil, the United States and Chile.
“We all want the pandemic to end, but optimism alone is not enough to control the virus. It is still too early to let our guard down,” he said, calling for public health measures to be maintained. , such as the use of masks and social distancing, in places with high rates of transmission.
“Omicron still exists and this pandemic is unpredictable,” he warned.
The omicron strain, the fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in China in late 2019 (after alpha, beta, gamma and delta), has caused less severe cases overall, but its transmissibility is much higher.
Etienne pointed out that, among the more than 6 million deaths that the pandemic has left so far in the world, 2.6 million correspond to the Americas, a region that has reported the highest number of deaths from covid-19. than any other on the planet.
“Nearly half of all deaths globally have occurred in the Americas, despite our region being home to less than 13% of the world’s population,” he noted.
Moreover, according to Etienne, the effects of the pandemic will be felt in the long term.
Among them, the director of PAHO mentioned the consequences that some covid survivors will suffer for the rest of their lives; the impact on the mental health of the population, with high rates of depression and anxiety, particularly among women and young people, and disruptions to essential health services.
Etienne also highlighted the exacerbated inequalities in a region very marked by inequalities, particularly in terms of access to vaccines.
“In Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 248 million people have not yet received the first dose of the vaccine. These gaps are concentrated in hard-to-reach rural areas or underserved areas,” said the director of PAHO.
“Only 14 countries have managed to reach 70% coverage of their population with the full vaccination schedule,” he said.