New omicron variant begins to hit the Americas

PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne -
PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne -

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported on Wednesday that the Americas registered more than 620,000 new covid19 cases during the last week and in some places infections are still increasing.

Dr Carissa Etiene, director of PAHO, said in the weekly webinar that in the Caribbean, 15 countries and territories witnessed a sharp rise in cases and deaths.

However, she said these numbers can be misleading because some countries are reclassifying deaths from earlier than recent weeks.

She said: “This comes after the increase in cases in Europe and Asia following the omicron BA.2 variant. This same variant has been observed in 8.7 per cent of the sequences reported in the Americas.

“Omicron circulation is generating sharp rises. We must face this together and with caution. We know what we need to protect our people,” Etienne said.

She explained omicron has left no doubt the vaccines are effective against any variant of covid19, and hence the importance of continuing vaccinations and booster doses.

Dr Ciro Ugarte, director of emergencies at PAHO, said the number of tests and confirmation of cases is lower. At this time PAHO's concern is that health authorities handle should supplies with caution.

“Countries are preparing and improving surveillance systems. PAHO continues to work with governments to maintain a testing strategy and find the differences between covid19 and the flu
and thus prevent covid19 outbreaks from increasing and keep the pandemic under control,” he said.

He said health measures must be adapted depending on covid19 community transmission and there are many measures that must be implemented, especially in schools.

“It is very important to do a balance to be able to resume what we have lost, in this case the return of children to schools, not only in classrooms,
but also the use of health measures, open spaces, different schedules so they adapt subjects so all students can return to their schools,” he said.

Ugarte said PAHO is aware of the measures that the TT government has been taking to return to normality.

Dr Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of PAHO, said it continued
to recommend that people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised should get boosters to guarantee the vaccines continue to protect people from severe covid19.

“The only way to be protected is to have full protection with booster doses or the full vaccination schedule,” he said.

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"New omicron variant begins to hit the Americas"

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