📢 "#COVID19 does not simply go away, so we need to employ all the resources we have to ❌ stop it: 💉 vaccines, 😷 masks,🧍🏾♂️ ⬅️➡️ 🧍🏾♂️social distancing, and, of course, 🔬surveillance", @DirOPSPAHO pic.twitter.com/skrTcuPMIK
— PAHO/WHO (@pahowho) December 15, 2021
A heavy toll
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 98 million people in the Americas have developed COVID-19 and more than 2.3 million have died from the disease.
More than a third of all cases reported worldwide, and one in four deaths, have occurred in the region.
“And when we compare 2020 to 2021, this year was undoubtedly worse. We saw triple the number of COVID infections and deaths in this second year of the pandemic than we did in 2020,” Dr. Etienne told journalists.
She said hospitals were stretched thin, stocks of vital medicines and supplies ran low, and health systems “were put to the test like never before.”
PAHO is the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Over the past week, more than 926,056 new COVID-19 infections were reported across the Americas, a nearly 19 per cent increase over previous weeks.
North America is experiencing a resurgence in cases as Mexico witnesses a reduction in infections.
Cases are down in Central America, except in Panama, where they have steadily increased over the last month.
“We’re seeing a shifting picture in South America,” Dr. Etienne reported. “Cases have dropped in Bolivia for the first time since September, just as COVID infections increased in Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay, and cases remain steady in Brazil and Peru.”
Although infections are down overall across the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago reached its highest weekly case count, while Saint Lucia also saw cases rise by 66 per cent over the last week.
The Cayman Islands reported the highest weekly incidence of any country or territory in the Americas.
Vaccine inequity persists
While 2021 has been “a sobering year”, COVID-19 vaccines have protected millions against the worst of the coronavirus, said Dr. Etienne. More than 1.3 billion doses have been administered in the region to date.
“Although rollout of vaccines has not been as rapid as we would have liked, or as evenly distributed, today 56 per cent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, thanks to the efforts of countries and the support of donors,” she said.
Dr. Etienne warned that vaccine inequity continues to divide the region, saying “if we don’t address glaring gaps, we’ll fail to bring this virus under control.”