PAHO: Continue social distancing for at least 3 months

Dr Carissa Etienne -
Dr Carissa Etienne -

AS the number of confirmed covid19 cases continues to increase in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) says social distancing practices should be continued for at least three more months.

At a virtual press conference on Tuesday morning, PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne said the organisation is expecting the number of cases in the region to continue to rise. She said there is now a “short window of time” to reduce the spread of the virus and its impact on health systems.

“In just seven days, we’ve witnessed cases and deaths more than doubling. The pandemic is accelerating rapidly and I urge governments to prepare and respond at the same speed.”

She also urged people to reserve professional PPE for medical personnel as many positive cases have been people in that field of work.

“It is our duty to protect them and care for them, as they will be on the frontlines of this battle.”

She said many hospitals will now require more space, beds, health professionals and medical equipment.

She said any health system would easily become overwhelmed during a pandemic, so the only way to ensure there is no overcrowding of sick people at hospitals is to maintain social distancing for a longer period of time.

“The situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Therefore, we must all be prepared for more difficult weeks ahead.”

“It will not be easy, and we know we will be asking people to adapt to an extraordinary situation that is impacting everything in their lives. But let me emphasise: this pandemic is serious, and we need to do everything in our power to mitigate the impact of covid19 on our people.”

Asked if cloth masks would be effective in reducing the spread of the virus, PAHO assistant director Dr Jarbas Barbosa said there is no scientific evidence to prove that. But he urged countries to continue to practice precautionary measures such as proper hand hygiene.

Also asked if TT’s Health Ministry withholding the ages and genders of confirmed cases follows PAHO’s guidelines, Dr Barbosa said every country has different policies. He said it would be in a government’s best interest to be careful not to add additional threats to patients.

“The countries need to report to their population: number of cases and number of deaths in a very transparent way. So, we cannot oppose public health measures and patients’ rights to privacy.”

Dr Etienne said through solidarity and support among its member countries, the region will get through this difficult time.

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